THE prevailing Cholera outbreak which surfaced in Chegutu last week, killing at least five people, leaving others hospitalized has exposed government’s lack of political will and desire to solve the recurring Cholera outbreaks, a top community health expert has said.
By Michael Gwarisa
In a statement, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) Executive Director, Itai Rusike said government was not doing enough to bring finality to the Cholera nuisance and such an approach could pave way to an even worse Cholera crisis.
“The latest outbreak of cholera in Chegutu and typhoid in Harare — following another one late last year – is clear evidence of lack of political will to address this persistent problem. What is annoying is that cholera and typhoid are not only medieval but simple diseases that can be contained by addressing basic social determinants of health.
“It only takes supplying residents with clean and safe running water, collecting garbage regularly, building proper toilets and quick fixation of burst sewerage pipes to avoid spillages into water bodies that supply drinking water to residents,” said Rusike.
He added that Zimbabwe should take a leaf from what happened in neighbouring Zambia, where within a few days the country was able to contain the cholera outbreak.
“All stakeholders including the Zambia national army were involved in bringing normalcy back in the country.
“This multi-sectoral approach is key if the country is tos uccessfully prevent further outbreaks of these diseases. It should rope in the other government departments including the Ministry of Education to raise awareness in institutions of learning.”
He also took a swipe at government for failing to address the drivers of cholera and typhoid which include sprouting of illegal settlements mostly in peri-urban areas for political expediency at the expense of the health of the people.
“Mushrooming settlements have become the springboards and epicentres of typhoid and cholera because there is no portable water, no toilets and rubbish bins are not collected.
“As an alternative to the non-availabity of water, residents dig shallow and unprotected wells side by side with communal latrines from where they draw water for drinking, exposing themselves to waterborne diseases.”
Meanwhile, the CWGH also called for the speedy finalization of the Public Health Act Amendment Bill and strengthening its enforcement mechanisms in order to protect the public from poor service provision.
Rusike also said temporal measures such as banning vending or public gathering would solve the Cholera crisis and more needed to be done to abet recurrence of such primitive diseases like Cholera and Typhoid.
“The CWGH would like to emphasise that piece-meal measures like banning vending without addressing the social determinants of health will not solve the problem at hand.
“We also acknowledge that the current health crisis does not emanate from the health sector alone but from wider economic decline and the increasing extent to which people are not accessing basic public services like clean running water, clean air and a clean environment – which are major determinants of health.”
He also implored the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), as the custodian of the Public Health Act to drive the process of bringing sanity into the country’s towns and cities and the ministry must come up with long-term strategies that involve all the stakeholders including the private sector to end these primitive diseases.
Most cities in the country continue to experience intermittent water supplies, blockages to the sewerage systems and a sporadic rubbish collection service, all key drivers of the outbreak of typhoid and cholera.
Water is a basic need and a fundamental human right. Government should stand guided by the Constitution which rightly states that access to potable water is a fundamental human right as stated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (no. 20) Act 2013 under the Declaration of rights Chapter 4 Section 77.
“As a country, we should be ashamed that Zimbabwe continues to grapple with archaic and medieval diseases such as cholera and typhoid that were wiped out in other progressive countries some centuries ago.
“What boggles the mind is that Zimbabwe claims to have the highest literacy rates in Africa and yet we, as a country, still cannot contain long forgotten diseases that even the poorest countries on the continent have been able to suppress.
“The continued outbreak of cholera and typhoid are a clear sign that shows that Zimbabwe did not learn anything from the 2008/9 cholera epidemic which killed over 4 500 people and affected over 100 000 others,” said Rusike.
According to Rusike, outbreaks of these diseases obviously affected the performance of the economy and potential investors. No sane investor or tourist would want to visit the country under the current situation and yet Zimbabwe pins its hopes for economic turnaround on foreign direct investment and tourism inflows.