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Cholera Outbreak in Zimbabwe Turns Drug-Resistant

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Cholera patients are seen isolated at Budiriro clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 11, 2018. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

The United Nations says it is hopeful Zimbabwe will soon contain an outbreak of cholera that has killed more than two dozen people. Efforts are complicated as authorities are fighting a drug-resistant bacterium said to be fueling the spread of the waterborne disease.

Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health Friday said the number of cholera-related deaths has climbed to 28, and more than 3,700 cases have been reported across Zimbabwe, with the country’s capital, Harare, remaining the epicenter of the problem.

Amina Mohammed, the deputy chief of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said patients are not responding to the drugs typically used to combat the disease. She said doctors are now using second and third-line drugs, which she said UNICEF is importing.

Amina Mohammed, the deputy chief of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), says her organisation is importing more drugs to combat cholera and is optimistic the situation is improving and stabilizing, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 14, 2018. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)
Amina Mohammed, the deputy chief of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), says her organisation is importing more drugs to combat cholera and is optimistic the situation is improving and stabilizing, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 14, 2018. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

She said the outbreak can be contained if people follow basic hygiene practices at home.

“This is an outbreak, at the beginning it is not easy to bring everyone together. But I think we have all rallied behind and are improving. I think we are stabilizing. I am happy about that. It could be better but we are happy that there is coordination by the ministry of health, together with the WHO, ourselves, MSF is doing a great job managing these cases,” said Mohammed referring to the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, the latter known for its French acronym MSF.

A medical staff member (left) administers oral rehydrating solution to a cholera patient to replace fluids he lost through diarrhea, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 12, 2018, (C. Mavhunga/VOA)
A medical staff member (left) administers oral rehydrating solution to a cholera patient to replace fluids he lost through diarrhea, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 12, 2018, (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

UNICEF, the WHO and MSF are some of the organizations that took action after Zimbabwe's health minister declared a state of emergency Monday.

On Thursday, the University of Zimbabwe postponed a graduation ceremony that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was supposed to attend, after police banned all public gatherings in light of the cholera outbreak.

But Jacob Mafume, spokesman of the main opposition party MDC, said the ban was only meant to stop its planned “inauguration” of party leader Nelson Chamisa Saturday as the “people’s president.”

A woman is seen washing clothes in the Mukuvisi River in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 11, 2018, as water shortages persist, what experts say is fueling the spread of cholera. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)
A woman is seen washing clothes in the Mukuvisi River in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 11, 2018, as water shortages persist, what experts say is fueling the spread of cholera. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

“The government is using its failure to provide water, it is taking advantage of its failures to restrict the freedoms of the people. They are running scared of our president Nelson Chamisa since his victory, to quickly take over from ZANU-PF inefficiency so that people can be healed from medieval diseases,” said Mafume.

Mnangagwa’s government has refused to comment on what it called “cheap politics” by the opposition, which has refused to accept results from the July 30 elections.

Raw sewage is seen flowing in the streets in Harare, Zimbabwe Sept. 11, 2018, with experts saying such conditions create an ideal environment for waterborne diseases such as salmonella, typhoid and cholera to thrive (C. Mavhunga/VOA)
Raw sewage is seen flowing in the streets in Harare, Zimbabwe Sept. 11, 2018, with experts saying such conditions create an ideal environment for waterborne diseases such as salmonella, typhoid and cholera to thrive (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

It said it is concentrating on containing the cholera outbreak which has since spread from Harare to other parts of the country.

Critics blame the government for failing to address issues of poor water supply, blocked sewers, and irregular trash collection, factors which are said to be making a cholera outbreak worse.

Authorities go for weeks without collecting trash resulting in Harare residents dumping it anywhere they can, creating conditions for cholera organisms to thrive, say health experts, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 14, 2018. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)
Authorities go for weeks without collecting trash resulting in Harare residents dumping it anywhere they can, creating conditions for cholera organisms to thrive, say health experts, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 14, 2018. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

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