Bridget Mananavire 18 March 2017
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s stone-broke government is finding it increasingly
difficult to contain disease outbreaks in the country, with health
officials reporting 89 000 new cases of malaria and 151 malaria-related
deaths in the past two months alone.
This comes as the ministry of Health and Child Care has issued a fresh
cholera alert in Manicaland and Masvingo, where two people have so far
succumbed to the disease which killed more than 4 000 people at the height
of Zimbabwe’s political and economic turmoil in 2008.
At the same time, Health ministry malaria programme manager, Joseph
Mberikunashe, told the Daily News yesterday that the recent heavy rains
had seen a spike in malaria cases, while floods had also made it difficult
to access certain affected areas around the country.
“The rainfall has seen an increase in malaria cases. In the first nine
weeks of this year, we recorded 151 deaths and 89 261 malaria cases.
“As the transmission of malaria depends on humidity, the recent heavy
rains mean that there will be more breeding ground for malaria, and many
communities are now exposed to the disease, including artisanal miners who
sleep in the open,” he said.
The worst-affected areas are the low-lying regions of the country which
include parts of Chiredzi, Chipinge, Mutare, Mutasa, Goromonzi, Centenary,
Uzumba, Maramba Pfungwe, Bindura and Beitbridge.
This week, the Health ministry issued a cholera alert after two people
died, while two others were treated for the disease in Manicaland and
Masvingo provinces respectively.
The highly-communicable disease is believed to have spread from
neighbouring Mozambique, where a cholera epidemic has infected more than 1
000 people in the aftermath of Cyclone Dineo.
Zimbabwe’s public health sector has lurched from one crisis to the other
over the past two decades, as the country’s stone-broke government
struggles to pay workers and stock hospitals.
Recently, health services were crippled when doctors and nurses staged a
national strike, pressing for improved working conditions.
Most public hospitals are collapsing under the weight of a myriad
problems, including the shortage of drugs and continued under-funding by
The country’s major hospitals recently warned that they were running low
on the supply of a major drug used during surgical operations – after
major drug supplier, GSK, pulled out of the Zimbabwean market last year.
Last week, hospitals were hit by shortages of the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin
(BCG) vaccine, which prevents infants from contracting tuberculosis (TB).
In 2016, major referral hospitals also had to suspend many services as a
result of the shortage of drugs, including painkillers – exposing how much
things have fallen apart in the country since the early 2000s.
United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Harare Central Hospital were among the
major health facilities that had to suspend normal services as a result of
drug shortages, including pethidine – a synthetic compound used as a
painkiller, especially for women in labour and during Caesarean