Source: EDITORIAL COMMENT: Activate national cholera emergency action plans | The Herald October 1, 2019
Cholera is preventable and treatable. And, recent moves by the Ministry of Health and Child Care to work closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to assess the preparedness of the country’s healthcare institutions to fight cholera and typhoid outbreaks are welcome.
Water shortages across the country are acute and measures to contain the spread of cholera and typhoid should be a top priority.
Last year, our country lost 50 people to cholera and typhoid outbreaks in Harare and in the central part of the country.
A drought that swept across the country has left most communities without adequate water, exposing them to the risks of water-borne diseases.
We need a swift response and decisive leadership of the health ministry to contain the potential threat coming with acute water shortages in most parts of the country — both rural and urban.
Ensuring a swift and effective response will help to decrease transmission of the diseases and lower the rate of deaths in most vulnerable areas.
The fight to contain the spread of cholera and typhoid should be a top priority now due to a ravaging drought and the coming rainfall season.
Zimbabwe needs to kick-start its national cholera emergency action plans to save lives and help to avoid the wider implications of a cholera outbreak that could dent tourist arrivals and hurt other vital economic and trade operations.
We welcome the closer collaboration between the Government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as other humanitarian organisations that have for years helped mobilise resources to fight cholera, typhoid and other diseases in our country.
We hail all the support that is being given to the Government as it makes preparations for the worst -case scenario of an epidemic.
Time is not on our side and the Ministry of Health and Child Care needs to reactivate cholera treatment units as well as proper water and sanitation facilities to assist people in the event of an unwelcome disaster.
The ministry also needs to broaden prevention and educational campaigns to raise awareness on lifesaving information, including the importance of washing hands with soap, boiling water and seeking medical support at the first sign of illness.
All healthcare institutions — in rural and urban areas must be equipped with essential accessories and drugs — oral-rehydration salts and antibiotics to save lives.
Local and international non-governmental organisations must also come and make preparations to start distributing hygiene kits, soap, water purification tablets and other kits in areas prone to cholera and typhoid.
They should also work with schools, local communities and other organisations to help spread key messages on hygiene and prevention.
Clean water, sanitation and hygiene promotion programmes can be effective in the fight against cholera and typhoid.
We do not need a repeat of the 2008 epidemic which claimed the lives of more than 4 000 people.
We must do everything in our power to save people from unnecessary deaths. In 2018, Government led a massive effort to contain the spread of cholera.
It was a huge success — thanks to the swift response and decisive leadership of the health ministry.
There is so much goodwill from humanitarian and donor organisations towards the fight against cholera and typhoid.
Zimbabwe has been blessed with support from such partners such as the WHO, UNICEF, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Masiyiwas’ Higherlife Foundation.
Closer collaboration with such organisations is critical for the success of massive campaigns to contain all water-borne diseases.
Beyond short-term efforts to contain the spread of cholera and typhoid, Zimbabwe needs to continue to rehabilitate its critical, but dilapidated water and sewer infrastructure.
Shortages of water treatment chemicals, poor investment in sewer treatment plants and other factors such as corruption, power cuts and others have compounded the problem.
Long-term strategies to invest in water and sewer infrastructure are vital to help the country to better monitor and respond to a range of disease outbreaks and public health security threats around the country.
In addition, our researchers should play their part too and find innovative solutions to the water and sanitation infrastructure problems.
Rehabilitating water and sanitation infrastructure comprehensively will save lives and make all Zimbabweans enjoy their basic right to clean and portable water and healthy lifestyles.