Cholera hits Chiadzwa


A cholera outbreak has erupted in the highly militarised Chiadzwa diamond fields sparking fears of an epidemic amid reports that 78 people have been admitted into hospitals in Mutare, NewsDay can exclusively reveal.
Hundreds were reportedly flocking to makeshift emergency health camps following an outbreak of the deadly and highly contagious cholera epidemic in the area amid a tense stand-off between security personnel cordoning off the diamond fields and the surrounding community.
According to the Health and Child Welfare ministry the outbreak was detected last Sunday.
Provincial Medical Director for Manicaland Dr Milton Chemhuru yesterday confirmed the outbreak but said the pandemic had not reached crisis levels.
Tents had been set up at camps scattered around Chiadzwa diamond fields said Chemhuru. He said not more than 10 people had been admitted there.
“Yes, there is an outbreak, but my staff is very good at controlling the disease and I am sure we are in control of the situation,” Chemhuru said. “We have taken in 79 patients at Mutare district centre situated in the Chiadzwa area but no deaths have been reported. Camps have been set up where tents have been pitched to take in patients.”
Chemhuru said there was another outbreak in other parts of the province, such as Buhera. Cholera treatment camps had been set up at Zangana, Chapinduka, Mutiusinazita and Gunura, he said.
Health minister Henry Madzorera said he was not yet aware of the outbreak because he only received bulletins from the provinces once a week.
“Call the PMD (Provincial Medical Director),” the minister said. “He is the man on the ground and would be able to give you the details you want. I only get bulletins once a week and I have not received any for this week.”
Local Government deputy minister Sesel Zvidzai also confirmed the outbreak and said his ministry, which handles issues to do with civil protection, had been alerted and was positioning itself to deal with the pandemic.
He said government had received reports of villagers, mostly children, having been struck by the disease in the past few days.
“We have received information of outbreak of cholera in Marange and we are working with health officials to try and curb the disease,” Zvidzai said last night. “The disease outbreak started three days ago and at least 78 people have been taken to hospitals and clinics around the province.”
The virulent disease had, according to the minister, not claimed any lives yet, but had caused panic among the villagers who were yet to be resettled after the government took over their area following the discovery of diamonds. Zvidzai said the biggest challenge that health authorities faced was that the area was very sensitive because of the diamonds and the security measures in place there.
It was difficult for non-govermental oganisations to penetrate the area to help improve the sanitation conditions in the area where villagers were said to be drinking contaminated water from diamond explorations.
“The biggest challenge in the area is the presence of the army,” Zvidzai said. “We will put up camps outside the security area so that people can access health facilities quickly in order to curb the spread of the disease.”
Chemhuru however said he had not received reports of his staff having any limitations in their operations in the cholera plagued areas.
“I cannot speak for other organisations but my staff has not reported any problems with the security situation in Chiadzwa diamond fields,” Chemhuru said.
Zvidzai said his ministry had been spurred on to action by the 2008 cholera pandemic that claimed more than 4 000 lives and affected over 100 000 people countrywide.