THE prevailing cholera epidemic which according to latest statistics has recorded 6533 suspected cases and 35 deaths wears a gender face according to the Harare City health department with preliminary figures indicating a 51% prevalence rate in women against 49% in men.
By Michael Gwarisa
Giving an update on the epidemic, Harare City Health director, Dr Clemence Duri said there was a conspicuous infection discrepancy between men and women amidst indications that the first cholera death which was recorded at Beatrice Infectious Disease Hospital (BDIH) was a 25 year old young women who died soon after admission.
“There is an Antimicrobial resistance of the ogawa spp isolated (resistant to ciprofloxacin, tetracycline, Cetriaxone). Females are more affected than males 51% respectively 49%. To date 2079 women have tested Cholera positive while 1972 confirmed cholera cases are men as at September 17, 2018
“On September 5, 2018. 25 patients were admitted at Beatrice Road Infectious disease hospital presenting with diarrhoea and vomiting. 10 were referred from Harare Central Hospital, and the other 15 used various modes of transport to Beatrice hospital. Most cases were from Glenview 8 and 3, and Budiriro 1 and 2. A 25 year old woman who was brought in in a collapsed state died on the same day, the 5th of September,” said Dr Duri.
He added that a sample from the woman was positive for V. cholera, Ogawa while all the patients had typical cholera symptoms like excessive vomiting and diarrhoea with rice watery stools and dehydration.
In Glenview three, 20 women tested cholera positive, Glenview one, two confirmed cases were women, Glenview 8 recorded five women, Budiriro 1 recorded six women, Glenview 5, one woman, Southlea park, one women, Budiriro 5, two women and Western Triangle, one woman.
He added that preliminary results have also shown that the Cholera prevalence is more rampart amongst the most active groups i.e from 15 to 35 years.
“Age distribution of suspected cholera cases as at 17 September 2018 show that the proportion of those below two years has gone down from a high of 12.6% to a current 9%. The middle age groups remain the most affected
“However, we still face numerous challenges in our fight against cholera, there is still resistance to the first line medicines, even azithromycine is not suitable. Sewer blockages are not yet repaired in entirety, reports of 54 sewer blockages in Glenview, Budiriro. Municipal water supply remains erratic, shortage of staff for contact tracing, less than 10 percent have been contact traced. Illegal vending is still on the rise. We are also running out of aqua tablets and water guard.”
Meanwhile, speaking to HealthTimes in an interview, prominent media and gender consultant, Grace Mutandwa said it was no surprise that women were at the receiving end in the midst of this cholera epidemic owing to numerous reasons chief among them being absence of protective gloves and clothing since women take care of the sick in most cases under any given family set-up.
“Those statistics wouldn’t surprise me because you must remember that when someone falls ill at home, it is the women who takes care of them or anyone who falls sick. So they are most likely to contract the diseases because they will be taking care of sick family members without protective gloves or protection at all.
“Women most of their times are trying to get clean water, in some suburbs, you can’t get water and when you get water it is actually dirty and when you are not sure enough whether that water is clean enough for drinking,” said Mutandwa.
She also implored government and local authorities to expedite the issue of sewer and water infrastructure development to arrest the recurring of medieval diseases such as cholera and Typhoid so as to protect the population and women in general.
“You know they are saying that we should wash our hands under clean running tape water but you know it doesn’t really make sense especially if the water that is coming out of the taps is dirty because you might actually get not just Cholera but Typhoid.
“You should know that it is women who make sure that there is water in the home for cooking, drinking or flashing the toilets. As an interim measure, in all the epicenters, government and council must make sure that people in those areas are protected 1.) By providing them with clean water 2.) By ensuring that garbage is collected and ensuring that the sanitation and reticulation system is maintained.”
As long term solution Mutandwa said there was need to enforce a rigorous hygienic system in the country where people are required to ensure that garbage goes into garbage bins and human waste goes into toilets and open defecation becomes a thing of past.
“We must also ensure that women are empowered enough to be able to ask for assistance and to have places where they can go for assistance if a situation like the one that we have arises.
“In this case, half the time, people are really stranded, they have nowhere to go and no one to ask about health from so we need a system in place that actually sees these issues as they arise and we need to get rid of cholera once and for all. There should be clean running water available and people cannot just cook and sale food anywhere without a toilet or a tape, we need to sort out that,” she said.