By Mashonaland East Correspondent
AT least 65 people have died of cholera in Zimbabwe’s rural areas between January and February this year with Mashonaland East province recording the highest number of 40 deaths.
A report released this week by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on cholera outbreaks in the Eastern and Southern Africa region linked the deaths directly to Apostolic Sect members who shun treatment and are also reluctant to accept health and hygiene messages from authorities.
“All cases reported in Zimbabwe (65) emerged from rural areas. Cases reported since the beginning of 2019 emerged from, six out of 10 provinces in Zimbabwe,” the UNICEF report noted.
According to the report; rural communities in Mashonaland East recorded 40 deaths, Mashonaland Central, 16, Masvingo, 5, Midlands, 2, Manicaland, 1, and Matabeleland South, 1. Most affected communities in Mashonaland East were Murewa and Mutoko.
“People in affected areas still prefer borehole water than tap water for drinking, generating the need to ensure good social mobilisation and either chlorination at point of use or at point of collection.
“(However), it’s a challenge to reach the Apostolic Sects with key health and hygiene education messages. The suspected cases reported outside Harare are directly linked to one of the Apostolic Sect gatherings,” the report reads.
According to UNICEF, over 1 million people in Zimbabwe were reached with health and hygiene messages in cholera affected areas while over 1 153 community health volunteers were trained and over 17 000 families received hygiene kits from UNICEF and other international donors.
Seven countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa region, including Zimbabwe, continue to be affected by the cholera outbreak. The other states are; Kenya, Burundi, Somalia, Tanzania, Angola and Uganda.
From September to December last year, Zimbabwe recorded 10 807 cases of cholera after the outbreak was first dictated in Harare. Over 100 people died from the outbreak during this period.
Zimbabwe’s urban areas especially Harare continues to grapple with intermittent outbreaks of waterborne diseases due to inadequate portable water as well as collapsing infrastructure. In 2008 at least 4000 people died of cholera across Zimbabwe after a devastating outbreak of the tropical disease that has become rare in developed societies.