Cameroon’s public health ministry says a cholera outbreak is sweeping across the towns of Limbe, Buea and Tiko, near the border with Nigeria.

The government says 12 of the 600 patients rushed to hospitals in those towns died within the past 72 hours.

Nyenti Annereke, director of the Limbe government hospital, said the facility, which has a capacity of 200 beds, has received more than 240 cholera patients.

“We built three tents in Limbe hospital yesterday because patients were at the veranda, in the corridors of the wards,” he said. “All the beds were full. The Tiko district hospital, the capacity also is overpowered. The hospital in Bota is another crisis zone.”

To cope with the overflow, humanitarian workers are helping to erect tents at the hospitals in Limbe and Buea.

Still, The government says many families are rushing their sick relatives to surrounding towns, including Mutengene and Douala, a commercial hub on the Atlantic coast.

Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the South West region where Limbe, Tiko and Buea are located, chaired at least three crisis meetings on Wednesday.

Bilai said the cholera outbreak is caused by a shortage of clean drinking water in western towns and villages provoked by the long dry season and civilians should desist from drinking open stream water. He said the disease is spreading fast because cattle and civilians defecate in the open and in rivers.

“Our structures, the hospitals are overloaded, but thank God that the medical officers in charge of those hospitals have been proactive and they have taken measures to receive various patients,” he said. “All the patients are under treatment.”

Bilai said the government will provide water to arid towns like Limbe, Buea and Tiko and surrounding villages but did not say when.

Meanwhile, health officials are moving from door to door encouraging civilians to boil water from wells and streams before drinking it.

The government says people should also eat only properly cooked food and wash their hands before and after meals, and after using the bathroom.

Another cholera outbreak in Cameroon in February affected 1,300 people and killed about three dozen.

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