by MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE World Health Organisation (WHO) is scaling up its response to an outbreak of cholera that has claimed at least 24 lives in Zimbabwe.
Cholera is expanding in Harare, the country’s capital with a population of more than 2 million people.
The outbreak began on 1 September and as of that date, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reports that there have been nearly 2 000 suspected cholera cases, including 58 confirmed ones.
Glenview, a high density suburb with an active trading area and a highly mobile population, is at the epicentre of the outbreak.
The area is vulnerable because of inadequate supplies of safe piped water, which has led people to use alternative unsafe supplies such as wells and boreholes. Cases that are linked to the epicentre in Harare have been confirmed in five additional provinces.
“When cholera strikes a major metropolis such as Harare, we need to work fast to stop the spread of the disease before it gets out of control,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.
She said WHO, the United Nations health agency, was working closely with the national authorities and partners to urgently respond to the outbreak.
The Zimbabwean government has declared a state of emergency.
It is working with international partners to rapidly expand recommended cholera response actions, including increasing access to clean and safe water in the most affected communities and decommissioning contaminated water supplies.
Authorities and partners are also intensifying health education to ensure that suspect cases seek care immediately and establishing cholera treatment centres closer to affected communities.
Zimbabwe has experienced frequent outbreaks of cholera, with the largest outbreak occurring from August 2008 to May 2009 and claiming more than 4 000 lives.
Cholera is an acute waterborne diarrhoeal disease that is preventable if people have access to safe water and sanitation and practice good hygiene, but can kill within hours if left untreated.
– CAJ News