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Cholera Said to be Endemic in Zimbabwe as Strike by Hospital Doctors Ends

Health experts in Zimbabwe are considering the implications of 12 cases of cholera confirmed this week in Chipinge district of eastern Manicaland province some weeks after the Ministry of Health declared that the deadly 2008-2009 cholera epidemic had run its course.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera has advised against alarm saying Zimbabwe is much better prepared to deal with such outbreaks now than it was at this time last year when an epidemic began which eventually 4,228 lives from more than 98,000 cases over 10 months.

Executive Director Itayi Rusike of the Community Working Group on Health said the new cases show that while the epidemic has ended, cholera is now endemic - a continuous threat - warning that the onset of the rainy season could bring even more cases.

Zimbabwe's rainy season typically begins in October.

Rusike told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that water and sanitation remain major challenges in fighting cholera's return.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's major referral hospitals were slowly returning to normal operation after the government's dismissal of a number of striking junior doctors late last seek.

Clinical directors at the four main state referral hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo on Friday started selectively issuing dismissal letters to striking doctors, dividing the ranks of the so-called junior doctors, or residents, and motivating most of them to return to work.

Nurses at Harare hospital who joined the strike also returned, medical sources said.

Sources in the hospitals said outpatient, casualty departments and wards that had closed due to the strike have reopened to the great relief of patients and senior doctors who attempted to maintain critical services during the strike.

The junior doctors were demanding an increase in their monthly salaries from US$390 to US$1,000 plus US$500 in housing and transport allowances.

Despite the return to work by many junior doctors, Hospital Doctors Association President Brighton Chizhande tells reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the fight for increased compensation and better working conditions will continue.

Dr. Ngonidzashe Madidi, a physician at United Bulawayo Hospitals, said that although many junior doctors have gone back to work, others remained on strike in solidarity with their colleagues who have been dismissed.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...