HARARE - Seven years after an estimated 4 000 people died in a cholera outbreak, Zimbabwe is once again in danger of becoming one of the epicentres of a fresh regional epidemic, as the number of people who have contracted the illness have doubled since Thursday last week.
As of yesterday, the epidemic had laid low 12 people, from six recorded cases last Thursday, according to official statistics.
This comes as a cholera outbreak in parts of neighbouring Mozambique that have been hit by floods has killed 41 people, raising the spectre of another mega regional health disaster from an illness that is ordinarily preventable.
Zim cholera cases shoot up alarmingly
Health and Child Care minister, David Parirenyatwa, is now scheduled to meet his Mozambican counterpart to discuss the outbreak that is ravaging the two countries’ common border areas.
Parirenyatwa also moved yesterday to advise the public to avoid shaking hands with other people unnecessarily, and to improve their hygiene habits.
“Statistics of confirmed, treated and discharged cases from on-going outbreaks reported during week eight are as follows: two confirmed cases at Chiredzi District, three from Mudzi, six in Beitbidge, one in Chipinge District, three suspected cases in Birchenough Bridge and one suspected case in Harare which has since tested negative. We don’t want a recurrence of the previous cholera outbreak. I have personally arranged a meeting with my colleague, the minister from Mozambique, at the Tete-Manicaland border so that we can discuss and highlight the need to fight cholera as Sadc.
“You know our borders, this side people will be playing soccer and half the pitch is in Mozambique; cattle grazing in Mozambique but owners’ homesteads are in Zimbabwe. That link is so much and worries us especially in Masvingo, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Manicaland, sometimes Matabeleland South provinces as well,” Parirenyatwa told a media conference in Harare. Apart from Mozambique, which shares a border line stretching 1 700 kilometres with Zimbabwe, Malawi is also struggling to contain a similar cholera outbreak.
Parirenyatwa also revealed yesterday that major development partners had already been engaged to help with the mobilisation and training of health professionals to deal with the outbreak.
“We have already applied for emergency funds,” he said.
Parirenyatwa emphasised that Zimbabwe would never rid itself of water-borne diseases without addressing its dire water and sanitation issues.
“As a ministry, we are trying our best to contain it but as long as we have poor sanitation and hygiene, and people cannot get good water, the danger of cholera in this country is still very, very high No matter what happens, the ministry will be at the receiving end but clearly this comes from infrastructure that is not up to scratch. We are scared that the sanitation coverage in some areas like Chiredzi, is as low as eight percent,” he said.
Parirenyatwa pleaded with the public to be mindful of what they eat.
“We should be vigilant and we should stop shaking hands unnecessarily,” he said.