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Harare reels from cholera scourge amid water scarcity



HARARE residents are fretting over the recurrence of the cholera outbreak, amid concerns over the City of Harare’s (CoH) failure to provide a consistent supply of running water.


The local authority on Thursday this week issued a statement, warning residents of the outbreak, with cases being recorded in five suburbs in the capital city.

“The City would like to inform residents that it has now 5 confirmed cholera cases in Hopely Zone 5, Stoneridge, Southlands, Granary, and Adbernie Mbare. Three of the cases had visited Buhera where there is a cholera outbreak while some may have contracted from local sources,” CoH announced on its X account.

On Wednesday, the Health ministry told AP that 30 people have died of cholera countrywide.
A total of 905 confirmed cases had been recorded.

Residents who spoke to The NewsHawks said the outbreak is likely to be worsened by acute sewerage problems and uncollected garbage.

Despite fears of another outbreak, CoH has assured residents, saying they are working to suppress the outbreak.

“The Health department is monitoring the situation on the ground and we are doing what we call ‘contact tracing’. We have also discovered that the cholera outbreak was first linked to Buhera. We have not yet recorded any deaths,” said Stanley Gama, the CoH public relations manager.

Community-based organisations said the city cannot afford to be hit by another outbreak.
Cholera remains a serious public health crisis in predominantly overcrowded areas where access to clean and sanitation is a challenge. 

“Use of alternative unsafe water sources such as unprotected shallow wells due to the erratic water supplies. Underground water maybe contaminated by leakages from the dilapidated sewerage system, unfortunately there is general low practice of treatment of drinking water from the boreholes or the protected and unprotected dug wells,” Itai Rusike, the executive director for Community Working Group on Health, said.

“Other risk factors for cholera include certain religious groups with low health seeking behaviours and deliberate efforts should be made to engage leaders of the religious groups in order to encourage their membership to seek for treatment whenever they suspect cholera infection.” 

Rusike said there is a need for a multi-sectoral approach to eliminate cholera by increasing access to clean, safe and sustainable water supply at household level including access to basic sanitation facilities.

“Oral cholera vaccine should be deployed to the identified hot spots and the government should seriously consider nationwide cholera vaccination and this should be combined with sustainable long-term Water Sanitation and Hygiene interventions to prevent recurrence of cholera outbreaks,” he said.

“Community involvement and community ownership is essential for effective responsible. We need to increase cholera awareness and prevention at community level and this should include early detection, referral of suspected cholera cases through community based surveillance.”
Previous cholera outbreaks have been disastrous, exacting a heavy toll.

For instance, the 2008-2009 cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe resulted in 98 585 reported cases and 4 287 reported deaths, making it the largest and deadliest in the history of Zimbabwe, according to statistics.

The initial outbreak was notable for its high cumulative case fatality rate (4.3%) that persisted over a protracted 10 months.

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