Zimbabwe's Cholera Outbreak Spreads Countrywide
MASVINGO-A chronic cholera outbreak in Harare that left dozens dead last month has spread countrywide, as health officials struggle to tame the water-borne disease, bringing the death toll to more than 200, according to a residents’ body.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) said in a statement Tuesday this week that there are more casualties than the 37 people whom the government claimed had died of the disease.
“More than 100 people in Harare alone could have died, given the rate at which some patients were dying at a city hospital,” CHRA said.
The government tried to suppress the number of people who succumbed to Cholera, saying less than hundred had died countrywide, after cordoning off clinics where victims are admitted.
The disease was first detected in the south-eastern high density suburbs of Budiriro, Glen View and Glen Norah that face acute water problems, where more than 60 perished owing to lack of proper medical attention. Days latter, about 200 cases were recorded at hospitals in Chitungwiza, twenty five kilometers out of Harare .
Thousands were hospitalized at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital and Budiriro Polyclinic last week in the capital, as medical staff from major hospitals-that also face a serious shortage of drugs-are on a strike.
In Masvingo, the country’s oldest town, thirty people were reported dead this week, while in the eastern boarder town of Mutare , fifty people-mostly illegal diamond panners coming from the Chiadzwa diamond fields-had succumbed to the disease after failing to get immediate treatment.
Elsewhere, in Beitbridge town, the gateway to neighbouring South Africa , the death toll rose from 36 on Monday this week to 44, according to the state-controlled Chronicle newspaper.
In Gweru, the Midlands province’s capital city, 13 people were confirmed dead as of yesterday, with the other four being from the small asbestos mining town of Zvishavane’s Murowa settlement.
Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, in an interview with the state media yesterday in Beitbridge admitted the epidemic had become a national problem.
“We have put the entire nation on high alert,” he told The Chronicle newspaper.
Parirenyatwa said the government has sought the assistance of relief agencies, some of which the government had banned in the run up to this year’s harmonized elections.
“We are collectively fighting the disease together with the assistance of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, Medicins San Frontiers, and International Organization for Migration (IOM), among others.
“ Zimbabwe and South Africa are also complementing each other in the fight against the disease. We are working tirelessly day and night to contain the disease, despite challenges here and there,” Parirenyatwa said.
Spreading of the disease has been precipitated by plunging health standards in other towns which are feeling the pinch of the decade-long political and economic recession, leaving many local authorities struggling to provide clean water and proper service delivery.
In Harare , CHRA held a protest this week Wednesday over the failure by the government and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) to provide clean water to the residents.
Many blame the crisis on President Robert Mugabe’s misrule, which saw the country’s once vibrant agricultural sector-the backbone of the economy-collapsing in the new millennium after a violent grab of white-owned commercial farms.
Tags: Cholera , Zimbabwe
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