Zimbabwe's health minister said Thursday a cholera epidemic has
ended, after more than 4 200 deaths and 100 000 cases since last
August, but warned new outbreaks remain a threat.
"The nation experienced the worst cholera outbreak between
August and June 2009, but the epidemic has successfully been
contained and has ended," Health Minister Henry Madzorera said in
the official Herald newspaper.
"As the pandemic comes to an end, all districts, provinces and
cities will... plan forward for future outbreaks, which have a
strong likelihood of recurring in view of continued sewerage and
water problems," he added.
The outbreak erupted in August as post-election violence was
sweeping the country, while public services including hospitals and
clinics shut down.
Conditions remain grim
The diarrhoeal disease thrives in places without proper sanitary
facilities. Cholera is deadly, but is easily preventable with clean
water and proper sanitation.
The outbreak began in Chitungwiza, a dormitory town outside the
Zimbabwean capital whose sewer system has been overburdened by a
booming population, and which experiences perennial water shortages.
Cholera then spread to 55 of the country's 62 provinces.
Since Zimbabwe's unity government formed in February, hospitals
have re-opened as doctors and nurses resumed work, though
conditions remain grim with little access to medicine and supplies.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies said the cholera epidemic was the worst to hit Africa in
15 years and warned that the disease had now entrenched itself as
an endemic illness in Zimbabwe.
Zim trying to raise money to prevent reoccurrence
"Our concern is that the fundamental issues -- access to
sanitation and access to clean water -- haven't been meaningfully
addressed," said IFRC spokesman Matthew Cochrane.
"Cholera is now endemic in Zimbabwe, like it is in most
countries in this region. Effort has to now be made that communities have access to basic amenities like clean water and sanitation."
Zimbabwe is trying to raise more than eight billion dollars over
three years to revive public services, including repairs to sewage
lines that leak through populous neighbourhoods.
Fears for a new outbreak will heighten around the rainy season,
which runs from November through February, when poor drainage last
year left filthy pools of water in the streets.
Zimbabwe had suffered cholera cases before, but usually in rural
areas. Now the disease appears more urban, with densely populated
neighbourhoods most at risk.
The country's health system was once the envy of Africa, but
Zimbabwe depended almost entirely on international assistance to
contain the cholera outbreak.
Cochrane said that more work still needed to be done to dig new
water wells and ensure sanitation, even as the government works to
rebuild sewage and water lines across the country -- a process that
could take years. – (Sapa, July 2009)
Zim still faces cholera threat: Red Cross