LIMITED resources because of funding challenges and lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH) is hampering the cholera fight in southern Africa, the United Nations has said.
A number of southern African countries including Zimbabwe are battling the worst cholera outbreak with more than 200 000 cases and over 3 000 deaths reported to date.
In Zimbabwe, since the start of the outbreak in February last year, more than 20 000 cases have been reported across the country’s 10 provinces with 452 confirmed deaths and 300 suspected deaths.
According to a report by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, southern African countries are struggling to halt the spread of cholera.“About 188 000 cholera cases, including 3 000 related deaths, have been reported in eight countries in southern Africa since January 2023,” the report read.
“This includes six countries currently with active cholera transmissions, namely the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe that
have continued to report cases since October 2023. Malawi reported 59 000 cases, the highest in the region.“Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe reported between 10 000 and 50 000 cases, while Tanzania and South Africa reported less than 2 000.
“In Zambia, a spike in cholera cases led to the delay in the opening of schools until 12 February, affecting approximately 4,3 million learners.”According to the report, limited resources because of underfunding challenges was the main cause for the increase in cholera cases and related deaths.“Governments and health partners with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) continue to scale up cholera response but limited resources and lack of sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene services continue to impede efforts to curb further spread and control of the disease,” the report read.
“To mitigate the impact of multiple public health emergencies, humanitarian partners continue to advocate for sustained investments in resilient healthcare systems and water and sanitation infrastructure, including the promotion of safe hygiene practices and community engagement.”
“According to WHO, there’s an 81% funding gap to fight cholera in southern Africa, which requires at least US$85 million.”On Monday, Zimbabwe began distributing oral cholera vaccines, targeting 800 000 people.
The ultimate target, according to Zimbabwe’s Health ministry, is the vaccination of 2,3 million people.Health and Child minister Douglas Mombeshora said half of the cholera cases in the country were recorded in children under the age of 15.
“Among the reported cholera cases to date, 31% were under 15 years of age while 14% were under five years of age,” he said during the handover of cholera medicines and commodities from donors on Saturday.
Harare and Manicaland provinces are the most affected.One in six new cholera infections in Zimbabwe is affecting children under five.