Buhera — The Government has intensified surveillance and strengthening of health systems in hotspots to curb fresh cholera outbreaks that have seen new cases being reported, mostly in Buhera and other districts.
The outbreak in Buhera has been fuelled by the non-availability of clean and safe water, proper sanitation facilities as well as lack of basic hygiene at household level.
As such, the Ministry of Health and Child Care and development partners that include World Health Organisation, UNICEF, MSF, Mercy Corps, Red Cross, World Vision among others, has rolled out a coordinated response to the outbreak.
During a visit to Buhera last week, the Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora said it was imperative to stop the outbreak in its tracks.
“The figures are increasing nationwide, but more so in Buhera district. One death is more than enough. We are losing lives and it is necessary for us together as a community, with our partners and the Ministry to scale up our interventions to stop this cholera outbreak,” he said.
To address the water challenges, Minister Mombeshora said the Government would ensure boreholes were drilled starting this week while communities were being encouraged to construct toilets to reduce open defecation rates.
The majority of people in Pasipamire and Mutemera villages, where most of the new cases are being reported, use water from Save River for household use, but there have been reports that owing to the activities that happen along the river, it has been contaminated.
“We have heard about religious objectors most of whom do not believe in visiting health facilities so we are trying to see if we can engage religious leaders to ensure that their followers get medical care when they fall ill.
“There is also a lack of adequate knowledge on basic hygiene. Some of the people who live in areas with boreholes have visited areas where there was cholera and they brought it to their area. This shows that they are not handling their food properly or washing their hands properly. Basic hygiene is needed,” he added.
To educate the people about the disease and how to prevent it, village health workers have been playing a vital role in the surveillance and management of the cholera outbreak.
According to the VHWs, while people are starting to understand the seriousness of the situation, there were others who still continued practicing harmful activities that were fuelling the outbreak.
Mrs Angeline Sanganai, a VHW from Torevasei and Pasipamire villages said her area was one of the worst affected and cited the need for continued education for communities.
“Our villages do not have boreholes and people are taking water from unprotected wells or from the Save River and many of these families do not have toilets. There are many activities that happen along the river because as a community, they have one point where they do their laundry, bath and collect drinking water.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora (second from left) speaks to a cholera patient accompanied by permanent secretary Dr Aspect Maunganidze (left), Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Manicaland Advocate Misheck Mugadza (centre), Zanu PF Buhera Central legislator Cde Samson Matema and other Government officials during a fact-finding tour at Betera Clinic cholera quarantine centre in Buhera over the weekend. – Pictures: Memory Mangombe.
“Unfortunately, some of our religious sects perform healing rituals for their sick members in the same river, so the people downstream will definitely get contaminated water,” she said.
She said they were trying to educate people on basic hygiene while also engaging the religious objectors to visit health centres when they suspect they have cholera.
“Some of the community members are starting to understand, but we still have some religious objectors who we continue to educate about the importance of digging pits latrines so that they avoid open defecation. We also inform them of the importance of boiling their drinking water or using aqua tabs and properly washing their hands as well as cooking food thoroughly,” said Mrs Sanganai.
Another VHW Mr Joseph Ngwarai said although the areas he worked in had not reported cases, they were actively engaging the communities to ensure they are on the lookout for cholera cases.
“As village health workers, we try to encourage people to boil their water before using it and using aqua tabs but some people are set in their ways, they will tell you that we have always been drinking water from the river so why should we stop now. We however continue to encourage them to be aware of the dangers of cholera,” he said.
Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial and Devolution Affairs Misheck Mugadza expressed gratitude at the coordinated response to the outbreak and said they would continue to engage communities for better outcomes.
“We will speak to the religious leaders so that we can come up with a solution to how we can fight this scourge. I am going to engage them so that we can educate them about cholera and the importance of seeking health care early to avoid the spread of cholera and unnecessary deaths,” he said.