FOUR people died of cholera early this month at a religious shrine in Beitbridge after a pregnant Gwanda woman, who had contracted the disease, went to the shrine to seek help after refusing to be assisted by health officials due to religious beliefs.
According to the Gwanda district cholera situational report released by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) on January 13, the deceased, including the pregnant woman, were apostolic sect members.
Zimbabwe is currently grappling with a severe cholera outbreak with the Health and Child Care ministry reporting that as of Saturday the country had recorded 17 730 suspected cases and 318 suspected cholera deaths. Of these figures 2 037 cases and 68 deaths were laboratory confirmed.
The pregnant woman complained of a headache and nausea on December 29 and assumed she was having labour pains.
“She was taken to a religious shrine in Beitbridge district in Mazunga area for assistance in delivery. While she was there the birth attendant and custodian of the shrine contracted cholera along with 12 other family members andneighbours. The birth attendant and two males died. The Beitbridge MoHCC rapid response team (RRT) attended to the outbreak on January 1 and carried out contact tracing and treatment of symptomatic contacts found,” read the report.
“The deceased was initially hidden from the RRT by family members and later identified by other community members. The deceased refused medical attention from the RRT members. The family then tried to shift her to another religious shrine in Mberengwa Masase area, however, she died along the way on January 2. Her death was reported to the police and was placed at the Gwanda Provincial Hospital mortuary pending a post mortem.”
Government said the family did not disclose that the deceased was a contact of a confirmed cholera death and on January 9 the body of the deceased was taken to United Bulawayo Hospitals for a post mortem and buried on the same day at Jonclyn Resettlement.
The ministry has recommended continued risk communication and advocacy meetings and engagement of communities with known religious objectors.
Meanwhile, Gwanda district in Matabeleland South has recorded 14 suspected cholera cases.
As of January 12, one person had succumbed to the diarrhoeal disease.
“The district has to date seen a total of 14 cases of cholera, seven confirmed cases and one suspected death. One case tested positive at the Gwanda Provincial [Hospital] casualty department and the second tested positive after admission. Contact tracing was carried out for the cases seen which were linked to each other and coming from the Hlalani Kuhle Housing scheme (Gwanda town),” the report read.
“A total of 10 contacts were identified, six were tested using the Cholera Antigen Rapid diagnostic test kit and four were positive. All the contacts not in hospital care have been placed under self-isolation and are being monitored by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.”