HARARE – Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo, is relieved that the year 2018 is finally coming to an end.
Last week, the former chief executive officer of Chitungwiza Hospital narrated how he “landed” in a cholera outbreak when he was appointed to the post in September.
Moyo recalled the horror of seeing patients battling for their lives, noting in particular how the first-line medicine proved ineffective as a source of cure.
“I landed in cholera ladies and gentleman,” he told his audience at the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe annual stakeholders’ forum in Harare.
“My appointment was during cholera; I had to be in the trenches making sure that all modalities were put in place to control the outbreak. The other medicines — ciproflaxin and ceftriaxone — were not responding and we had to use azithromycin which was not available in large quantities,” he said.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) situation report corroborated the harsh reality that health personnel were faced with.
It revealed that first-line antibiotics were struggling to treat the disease, which had spread to five of the country’s 10 provinces.
“There is resistance to the first-line medicine, with tests suggesting antibiotic drugs ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone could be ineffective and the alternative drug azithromycin was not available,” noted the WHO report.
The organisation recommended that relevant medicines should be purchased as a matter of urgency as soon as resistance patterns were ascertained.
Moyo was one of the ministers appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in September after a month-long hiatus that had followed the July 30 harmonised elections.
The MDC Alliance, which had given Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF party a good run for its money at the poll had refused to accept the outcome of the elections and unsuccessfully approached the Con-Court for redress.
Moyo had participated in the elections on a Zanu PF ticket in the Zengeza East constituency but lost to an MDC Alliance candidates.
Nonetheless, Mnangagwa appointed him a non-constituency Member of Parliament and Cabinet minister.
But unlike other ministers who had the luxury of first familiarising themselves with their portfolios as they settled into their new responsibilities, Moyo had to hit the ground running to contain the highly infectious disease which first broke out in two of Harare’s south-western suburbs.
The cholera outbreak was first detected in Glen View suburb and it prompted the Health ministry to declare an emergency in the capital.
Authorities banned public gatherings in Harare while Health ministry personnel supervised burials of victims.
Tests from some wells and boreholes showed that water was contaminated with cholera and typhoid-causing bacteria.
Government later began administering cholera vaccines in selected suburbs in order to contain the outbreak that had resulted in several deaths.
Zimbabwe had last suffered its worst cholera outbreak in 2008.