Editorial Comment: Robust response to cholera outbreak needed

The worsening cholera outbreak across the country now needs the authorities to take serious measures to protect lives.

Zimbabwe has been recording cholera cases since early this year and the outbreak has been linked to the collapse of the sewer reticulation systems in urban areas and acute water shortages.

The water borne disease has been ravaging most of the country’s rural districts for several months and the authorities have been clearly struggling to bring it under control.

Harare has emerged as the latest epicentre of the outbreak with Kuwadzana high density surburb recording the highest number of new cases.

The capital city has been facing serious water shortages for several years as the population has outgrown the city’s only supply dam – Lake Chivero.

Over the years, the government has been dithering on the construction of an alternative source of water for Harare with disastrous consequences.

Outbreaks of medieval diseases such as typhoid, dysentery and cholera have become very common in the capital. Lives continue to be needlessly lost due to preventable diseases.

The situation is worsened by the decaying sewer infrastructure and proliferation of informal businesses as people seek ways to survive the biting economic crisis.

As a result of the increasing cholera cases, the government has started restricting gatherings and food vending, while monitoring burials in all areas affected by the outbreak. 

According to government statistics, new cholera cases trebled from 437 to 1 259 last week and that was the biggest jump since the latest outbreak began in February.

The latest outbreak has evoked memories of the 2008 catastrophe where 4 000 people died of cholera in Zimbabwe.

It is against that background that we call on the authorities to stop the business-as-usual approach to the cholera outbreak and take proactive action to stop the disease from spreading further.

The government must reach out to international bodies such as the World Health Organisation to join the cholera response, which must now include the introduction of vaccines and addressing the water supply bottlenecks.

It is no coincidence that the spike in cholera cases in Harare coincided with disruptions in water supplies that were blamed on erratic electricity supplies.

The power cuts have also affected the supply of water to residents in cities such as Bulawayo and this cannot be allowed to continue.

There is also need to increase the screening of cholera cases in hotspots such as Kuwadzana to minimise the spread of the disease. Awareness campaigns must be intensified too!.

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