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Cholera outbreak …City fathers failing the people

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By Elizabeth Sitotombe

A VIDEO of vendors storing their vegetables and other items for sale in filthy public toilets and later selling them to the unsuspecting public is circulating on social media.

The city fathers have simply let the people down.

The opposition-led Council’s negligence in service delivery has been described as a pure act of terrorism which now has the nation engaged in a fierce battle against the deadly cholera disease.

According to Harare residents, the spread of cholera in the city rests squarely on the city fathers.

Uncollected garbage, erratic water supplies, leaking and burst sewage pipes and poor drainage system are among the myriad of challenges Harare residents are facing.

Rains are now falling on heaps of uncollected garbage, a rich breeding ground for waterborne diseases all around the city suburbs.

Some suburbs have gone for months with mountains of uncollected garbage.

“In many communities, there is no water for drinking or bathing,” said one Mbare resident.

“Raw sewage sometimes flows here as we go about our daily business and duties.

“As you can see, maggots are also breeding. The situation here is deplorable. We have people who are hands-off instead of hands-on; they do not even know what the steering wheel is,” said Sekai Chideu. 

Cholera is spreading rapidly across the country.

 As of November 5 2023, the country had recorded 6 486 suspected cases of cholera with 1 127 confirmed cases.  

Sixty-eight new cases of cholera were reported in the country in the first few days of November.

 Chitungwiza alone recorded 28 of the confirmed cases.

So far, Manicaland Province has the most cases, having recorded 694 confirmed cases, 23 confirmed deaths and 73 suspected cholera-related deaths since the outbreak.

Treasury approved US$12 million for cholera preparedness and response in order to curb the spread of cholera.

Cabinet has directed as follows: “… that intensified Risk Communication and Community engagement, including involvement of religious and local leadership, intensified school health education on cholera and diarrhoeal diseases, and utilisation of existing media houses and digital platforms for content dissemination be continued in all provinces especially Chitungwiza and Buhera.

That there be improved safe water access to communities through rehabilitation of boreholes and drilling of new ones, that public health measures be enforced in all communities reporting cholera cases, including restrictions of gathering in all cholera affected areas and supervision of all burials  in all cholera affected areas.”

 It is high time the city fathers stepped up so Zimbabweans do not have to end up fighting battles that are easily avoidable if duties are carried out  in a proper manner.

 Symptoms of cholera infection include:

  • Diarrhoea: Cholera-related diarrhoea is sudden. One can lose fluid so quickly; about a litre per hour. The stool is often pale, with a milky appearance that resembles water in which rice has been rinsed.
  • Nausea and vomiting: This often occurs in the early stages of cholera and can last for hours.
  • Dehydration: Can occur within hours after the start of cholera symptoms. Signs of dehydration include irritability, fatigue, sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and extreme thirst, dry and shrivelled skin that is slow to bounce back when pinched.  Sometimes little or no urine comes out.

One can have low blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat.

 Causes

  • Surface or well water

Contaminated public wells are frequent sources of large scale cholera outbreaks.

  • People in crowded conditions without adequate sanitation are at high risk.
  • Grains, such as rice, that are contaminated after cooking and kept at room temperature for several hours can grow cholera bacteria.
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables are a frequent source of cholera in areas where there is cholera.

 Prevention

  • Sanitising or washing your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after using the toilet and before one handles food.
  • Drink safe water that has been boiled, disinfected or bottled water. Even when brushing your teeth.
  • Avoid buying food in the streets. Be sure to eat hot food that is well cooked. 
  • Avoid foods you cannot peel yourself such as grapes, instead opt for bananas or oranges.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care is urging members of the public to be on high alert and report to the nearest health facility if one presents any diarrhoeal symptoms.

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