Zim cholera outbreak ‘not yet under control’

The United Nations says the cholera death toll in Zimbabwe has risen to over 1 500 and case fatality rates are increasing.

The World Health Organisation said in an update posted on its website on December 26 that the outbreak is not yet under control.

It recommends neighbouring countries scale up disease monitoring and preparedness, but refrain from mass vaccination campaigns.

The agency says 1 518 people have now died and a total of 26 497 cases have been recorded by the Ministry of Health since the start of the outbreak in August.

The UN agency’s figures indicate that more than two-thirds of deaths occurred in December alone.

The percentage of cholera patients dying from the disease has risen to 5,7% from 4% at the beginning of the month.

”Harare, particularly Budiriro suburb in the south-west, accounts for the majority of cases, followed by Beitbridge in Matabeleland South and Mudzi in Mashonaland East,” said the website.

”The current outbreak is the largest ever recorded in Zimbabwe and is not yet under control. In fact, the epidemiological week ending 20 December saw over 5 000 new cases — an increase in the number of weekly cases relative to previous weeks — and an increase in deaths outside treatment/health centres.”

”The overall Case Fatality Rate has risen to 5,7% — far above the 1% which is normal in large outbreaks — and in some rural areas it has reached as high as 50%,” said the report.

Hospitals closed
UN special rapporteur on health rights Anand Grover on December 22 highlighted the medical crisis facing the country, saying the main public hospitals were closed because of a shortage of medical supplies, doctors and nurses.

”Zimbabwe’s health system has completely collapsed — it cannot control the cholera outbreak, which is spreading throughout the country, and the death toll increases daily,” he said.

With the rainy season approaching, experts fear the crisis will deteriorate further.

Zimbabwe has declared the outbreak a national emergency and has asked the international community for assistance in curbing the spread of the disease. –

SADC aid
The South African Development Community announced humanitarian aid for Zimbabwe in Harare last Sunday.

”We are here to launch the initiative and find out how far we are in terms of delivering the required assistance,” SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salamao said.

The undisclosed amount of assistance follows a visit by a SADC team led by South Africa two weeks ago to assess the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Salamao said part of the package was South Africa’s R300-million-worth donation of seed, fertilisers and fuel to help revive the country’s agricultural sector.

South Africa had maintained that it will hold off any kind of aid assistance to Zimbabwe until a unity government is in place.

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