By Staff Reporter
THE devastating cholera outbreak wreaking havoc in Harare and some parts of the country has prompted a push by the Ministry of Health and Child Care for treasury to suspend its freeze on further recruitment on health staff and environmental professionals so as to effectively tackle the scourge.
This was revealed in a letter written to the Health Service Board (HSB) chief executive Ruth Kaseke this past week by the ministry’s permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji.
Gwinji said the shortage of staff to handle environmental issues was impacting negatively on strategies to avert similar disasters.
He said prevention of communicable diseases such as cholera and typhoid was achievable through awareness initiation, support and supervision, water and sanitation projects, hygiene-education, inspection of food outlets and water quality.
“If these duties were being properly conducted, the country would probably not experience such outbreaks,” he said of a disaster that has claimed atleast 27 and infected nearly 4 000 with the majority of the victims in Harare.
“One of the major challenges in combating the cholera outbreak is shortage of the requisite human resources,” he wrote.
“The current staffing levels is at 50 % not because of skills shortage but because of the current freeze on recruitment.”
Currently, there are 737 vacant environmental health technician posts out of a total establishment of 1469 and 50 vacant posts for environmental health officers out of an establishment of 122.
This means that 737 wards are more likely to be affected by cholera as there are no environmental health services being rendered to the community.
“The water quality monitoring is conducted through the use of laboratory service which is also affected by human resource shortages,” Gwinji added.
The ministry also seeks the unfreezing of 155 posts for laboratory scientists and 20 for laboratory technicians.
“It is cost effective to prevent outbreaks than cure. Therefore, there is urgent need to strengthen the preventative services by engaging Environmental Health and Laboratory Staff,” he said.
The environmental health and laboratory services have a total establishment of 2 051 personnel and requires 957 posts to be filled.
According to the cost analysis, the Government will have to part with at least $847 430 for the recruitment exercise.