ZIMBABWE ON CHOLERA ALERT
Government has tightened border controls and mobilised resources following heightened fears of a possible cholera outbreak in the country after the disease killed 67 people in neighbouring Zambia.
The disease, which broke out in Zambia in October last year, is infectious and causes severe watery diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and even death if untreated. It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.
There are fears it could spread to Zimbabwe because of high cross-border activity between the two countries.
The Lusaka Times of Zambia says as of January 10, at least 2 905 cholera cases had been recorded in the country.
During a Civil Protection Unit (CPU) meeting at the Hwange District Administrator’s office on Wednesday, Hwange District Environmental health officer Mr Talikobila Mwembe called for a multi-sectorial approach in cholera prevention.
“In preparing ourselves for a breakout that may affect the country anytime, we would like to encourage a multi-sectoral responsibility, whereby Government, local Government and the education sector work together in terms of preventing the epidemic,” said Mr Mwembe.
He said the ministry had mobilised equipment at all 45 health institutions in the district and reserved 45 cholera beds at Victoria Falls District Hospital. Ambulances and motorcycles have been mobilised for hard-to-reach areas, including laboratory consumables and medicines.
He said the provisions fell short of requirements.
Mr Mwembe said there was a shortage of health personnel to man some border posts.
“Human resources are available in all categories though there is a critical shortage in environmental health departments manning the Pandamatenga and Kazungula border posts. This is risky as there are chances of cholera getting into the country through some food stuffs,” he said.
Victoria Falls Municipality has since stopped Zambian vendors – who get into the town on a daily basis to sell maize cobs, fruits and vegetables – from crossing into the town to sell their wares to limit chances of the epidemic spreading across the border.
Hwange DA, Mr Simon Muleya said there was heightened alert in the district considering the proximity with Zambia.
“In the district, we have Victoria Falls which is a stone’s throw away from Zambia and possible gateway for cholera. We have to be on the alert and prevent it from entering the country,” he said.
“There’s no budget allocation for the CPU from the central bank. However, we work on donations. We call for stakeholders and well-wishers to be on the alert and assist in case of an outbreak.”
Mr Muleya said the ministry had availed $380 000 for awareness campaigns on cholera.
Zimbabwe last had a cholera outbreak in 2008.