The cholera epidemic that hit Zimbabwe late last year is now officially
over. But humanitarian groups warn the onset of the rains later this
year could trigger another outbreak. Efforts are underway to avert more deaths from the disease.
World Health Organization says more than 4,250 people died from cholera
and more than 98,000 people were infected during Zimbabwe's last rainy
season. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies have described the recent outbreak as the worst in Africa in 15 years.
Tsitsi Singizi, spokesperson for the United
Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, told VOA that while the scale and
numbers may be unprecedented the outbreak was nothing new.
the last six years Zimbabwe has been experiencing a cholera outbreak
every year," he said. "The historic pattern of cholera warrants almost
a preparedness plan every year to respond to cholera."
says one of the reasons for the poor response to the outbreak last year
was the near collapse of the public health system. She says this has
largely been remedied with the support of donor and humanitarian
organizations who are paying allowances to medical personnel.
Zimbabwe's minister of health, Doctor Henry Madzorera, says this has
ensured that most health workers have returned to work.
spite of the poor salaries and working conditions we find that most of
our health workers are back at work now," he said. "The health care
delivery system is now many, many times better than it was in August
last year when the outbreak started."
outbreaks usually occur in rural areas. But the epicenter of last
year's epidemic was the capital city Harare. Other urban centers were
also hit hard. Infrastructure in these centers was so degraded that the
authorities failed to provide safe drinking water and streams of raw
sewage flowed in some residential areas.
Tsitsi Singizi said
UNICEF is concerned that the sanitation and water problems have not yet
been resolved. Since the epidemic, the U.N. agency has sunk more than
200 boreholes in areas in Harare and elsewhere that have not had
running water for a long time.
Dr. Madzorera said local
authorities are working frantically to ensure that the sewage and water
infrastructures are rehabilitated before the rains. The health minister
said the Ministry of Finance has given Harare $17 million government to
fix Harare's water and sanitation infrastructure.
said even though the epidemic is over, Zimbabwe is in what he described
as a state of alert. He said the cholera command and control center
still meets every week. He said Zimbabweans are being educated on how
to prevent cholera and encouraged to use a range of water purification
The international community is also helping. In
addition to the boreholes, UNICEF is providing some urban authorities
with water purification chemicals, providing hygiene kits to schools
and replenishing stocks of rehydration kits. The World Health
Organization has also started training community cholera surveillance
teams to help in the early detection of, and response to, a fresh
outbreak, if that happens.