Cholera outbreak hits Chinhoyi

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent

MUNICIPAL health authorities have confirmed an outbreak of cholera in Chinhoyi, the administrative capital of Mashonaland West province, where water shortages, overflowing raw sewers, and uncollected garbage are commonplace.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with vibrio cholerae bacteria. Humans get sick when they swallow food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe and life-threatening.

The latest epidemic has once again cast a dark shadow on the Chinhoyi council, and indeed the central government, sincerity to improve the living conditions and health infrastructure.

Council spokesperson, Tichaona Mlauzi this Monday told the deadly bacterial disease has so far led to hospitalisation of some patients.

“Municipality of Chinhoyi advises its residents and stakeholders that we have had a cholera outbreak in Chinhoyi. We have since recorded one confirmed case and three suspected cases, which are being monitored at Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital,” said Mlauzi.

The local authority is ill-prepared for an impending health disaster against the backdrop of a demoralised workforce that has gone for six months without salaries.

Although the council urges residents to observe strict hygiene, including washing hands before consuming food, citizens who spoke to this publication argue there is no water to ensure cleanliness.

Zimbabwe is reeling under a devastating cholera outbreak that has so far affected more than 5 000 citizens across the country, marking another dark epoch wrought by a preventable medieval disease.

In a post-Cabinet briefing last week, Information Minister, Jenfan Muswere said Health and Child Care Minister, Douglas Mombeshora, painted a gloomy picture of the cholera outbreak as numbers keep climbing with the worst affected provinces being Manicaland and Harare.

As at October 21, 2023, Zimbabwe’s cumulative suspected cholera cases were 5 338 with 5 090 recoveries. Manicaland province and Harare province contributed the highest number of cholera cases, having reported 2 524 and 1 654 cumulative cholera cases.

He highlighted that poor sanitation and low safe water coverage had driven the cholera outbreak, especially in Harare Metropolitan province.

The government said efforts were being made to ensure availability of safe drinking water as evidenced by drilling boreholes.

In a bid to control the malady, public gatherings, including funerals, will be put under surveillance by health officials to ensure strict adherence to hygiene protocols.

Zimbabwe first reported cholera in 1972 with sporadic outbreaks occurring in subsequent decades.

The largest cholera outbreak occurred between August 2008 and July 2009, which recorded 98 592 cases and 4 288 deaths

In 2008, Amnesty International found that the government’s failure to contain and manage the cholera outbreak was caused by the lack of a safe drinking water supply and broken-down sanitation systems that left residents surrounded by flowing raw sewage and swarms of houseflies that were disease vectors.

Yet two decades later we are still afflicted by the same failures causing this latest outbreak.

Cholera is a treatable disease that requires patients to be evaluated at clinics or hospitals and treated quickly with rehydration therapy, antibiotics, and zinc.