The group ActionAid has launched a new campaign to prevent cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe communities not yet infected by the epidemic, which began last August. More than 73,000 cases and over 3,600 deaths have been reported since then. Much of the campaign involves going door-to-door to teach hygiene and prevention methods.
George Matonhodze, ActionAid's cholera response coordinator in Zimbabwe, describes prevention efforts.
"What we're doing basically is to move into those communities, which have not yet experienced cases of cholera, by giving information, creating awareness amongst the target communities. And we're doing that through engagement of the communities themselves. We have in those areas…volunteers…. We've gone to train those volunteers on cholera prevention and those volunteers go out to the communities to create awareness," he says.
Sanitation and hygiene are key to community cholera prevention efforts.
"Practice good hygiene. They need to wash their hands each time before handling food, before eating and after visiting the toilet. Those are the key messages, which we are saying to the communities… And also ensuring that their water supply is safe," he says.
There's been an increase in cholera cases in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. Matonhodze says, "There's really a shift from cases in urban areas… maybe it's because of the festive season break when people traveled from urban areas to the rural areas to see their relatives. We are seeing more cases now in those rural areas and it's really worrying us."
ActionAid is operating in six districts, concentrating on the cholera-free zones.
"It's important to be pro-active rather than to be reactive… We'd like to create that awareness so that people have an understanding of the disease transmission routes and how to block those routes, which is very essential for behavior change to occur," he says.
Besides awareness campaigns, ActionAid is helping to distribute water purification tablets, jerry cans and soap.
"Basically we want to create an enabling environment for them to be able to practice those good hygienic practices," he says.
ActionAid and others have also
launched an effort to clear rubbish from six Harare townships. "Rubbish also
contributes to the spread of cholera because as rubbish accumulates in the
neighborhood there's bound to be breeding of flies in those areas. And a fly is
one of the major transmitters of the cholera bacteria,' he says.