The Government has drilled 77 boreholes in cholera hotspots across the country out of a target of more than 140 as it steps up efforts to fight the deadly water-borne disease through increased access to clean water.
The country is battling a cholera outbreak that has so far claimed 71 lives, while more than 300 others are suspected to have succumbed to the disease since its outbreak last year.
The disease is also wreaking havoc in several countries across the region.
As of January 17, Zimbabwe had reported 18 865 suspected cholera cases, 2 223 confirmed cases and 12 137 recoveries, official figures show.
The country has swiftly activated its rapid respond systems in a bid to save lives and will this week take delivery of a consignment of close to one million cholera vaccines ahead of the commencement of a nationwide vaccination campaign set to kick off next month.
Working closely with development partners, the Government, through the Ministry of Health and Child Care has secured about 2,2 million doses of the oral cholera vaccine (OCV) from the International Coordinating Group (ICG), which will be delivered in batches.
The ministry has also moved in to monitor funerals and other public gathering, which are regarded as cholera super-spreaders and has since instructed members of the public to report all community recorded deaths related to diarrhoeal causes for quick action.
In addition to fast-track borehole drilling, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has also been mandated to strengthen the water quality assurance tests as part of the water-borne disease containment measures in both rural and urban areas.
Zinwa corporate communications and marketing manager, Mrs Marjorie Munyonga, said the agency has ramped up measures to ensure that all members of the public have access to clean water.
“Zinwa has drilled 77 boreholes around the country to help alleviate the water and sanitation situation of communities as part of the ongoing fight against the current cholera outbreak,” she said.
“The boreholes are being drilled at institutions such as clinics, hospitals, schools and villages in cholera hotspots such Harare, Glendale, Mapanza in Chiredzi, and are being equipped with solar systems and bush pumps.”
The exercise buttresses the Presidential Borehole Drilling Scheme that commenced in 2021 to improve access to water in communities targeting 35 000 boreholes across the country’s villages.
Communities in Binga, Matabeleland North and Mangwe in Matabeleland South, are among those that have already benefited from the programme.
Concerning the cholera mitigation interventions, Mrs Munyonga said 38 boreholes have been drilled in Harare, 33 in Manicaland, three in Mashonaland West and two in Masvingo province with more expected in other parts of the country.
“Drilling of more boreholes is in progress across the country with at least 140 boreholes having already been surveyed and ready for drilling as at January 17, 2024.
“The authority has also put in place a raft of measures and strategies to help prevent the outbreak and spread of cholera in the areas that it provides potable water,” she said.
Mrs Munyonga also said Zinwa has stocked up water treatment chemicals for small towns, growth points and rural service centres that it provides water to ensure there is minimum disruptions to water supplies.
Access to clean water is considered one of the important measures in mitigation against cholera hence Zinwa has reiterated the need to ensure minimal water supply disruptions in the areas it supplies potable water.
“All water supply stations are adequately stocked with at least three months’ supply of water treatment chemicals,” said Mrs Munyonga.
“The authority has also strengthened its water quality assurance function, ensuring that all treated water is subjected to frequent and rigorous tests at various points of production and distribution while it is also reducing its response time to breakdowns.
“Zinwa is also stockpiling critical plant spares to help reduce stations’ downtime.”
Mrs Munyonga said Zinwa catchment and service Centre offices are also working closely with key Government agencies in the fight against cholera at provincial and district levels.
Contacted for comment, Bulawayo Health Services Director Dr Edwin Mzingwane said the provision of clean water is key in addressing cholera situation.
“If done properly this will go a long way. Harare and Chitungwiza are suffering because of drinking contaminated water. Their situation is different from ours because we don’t have water and if they get clean water, it will reduce transmission levels,” said Dr Sibanda.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by bacteria and occurs when one consumes food and water contaminated with cholera bacteria.
The water-borne disease causes severe dehydration, and diarrhoea and can lead to death. The disease affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if untreated.
According to health experts, most people infected with cholera do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria is present in human waste for 1-10 days after infection and is shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.
Health experts have urged the public to maintain high levels of hygiene as part of the cholera mitigation measures while the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has adopted cholera mitigating standard operating procedures, which include that all schools should have running water.