By Michael Gwarisa
Today, February 12, 2024, marks exactly 12 months since the first Cholera outbreak was reported in Zimbabwe in Chegutu, Mashonaland West.
The Cholera anniversary comes in the wake of the outbreak having been reported in 61 districts in all the country’s 10 provinces.
Deputy Cholera Incident Manager in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Dr Stephen Karim said the country was beginning to witness a positive trajectory in the cholera outbreak.
You might remember that we reported the first case of Cholera was on the 12th of February 2022 in Chegutu. So it has taken us a full year, ideally, an outbreak should be able to be controlled within two weeks so 12 months on, we still have Cholera,” said Dr Karimu.
Since the onset of the outbreak, in 2023, Zimbabwe has recorded 23,905 suspected cholera cases, 2,511 confirmed cases, 23 147 recoveries, 71 Confirmed deaths and 454 suspected deaths with a Case Fatality Rate of 1.91%.
“So we’ve reached the 20,000 mark in terms of all suspected cases. Of those 23,905, 23,147 have recovered. So that’s our recovery. Currently in care, in care, these are patients who are admitted and receiving care, both in hospitals and in cholera treatment camps, we have 233. Unfortunately, we have deaths along the way.
“So far we have had 71 deaths confirmed culture-positive deaths as well as 464 suspected deaths? So that’s a burden. But on a positive note, our case fatality rate, case fatality is those who die out of those who have cholera, has gone down from 2.2% to 1.9%, which reflects an improvement in case management. That’s not the ideal environment. We want it to be less than 1%. So out of 100 people we have cholera, we expect that less than 1% die.”
In terms of the geographical distribution of the disease burden, the majority of cases have been recorded in the capital, Harare which has contributed 8,043 cases. So that’s where the major burden. Manicaland and Masvingo are the second most hit with Manicaland having recorded 5,981 and Masvingo 2,665.
Bulawayo has been the least hit in terms of the cumulative cases and has only recorded 29 cases. Zimbabwe has roughly about 17 hot-spot districts.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is rolling out numerous interventions to respond to the Cholera outbreak with the latest action being the rollout of the Oral Cholera Vaccination drive.
“The OCV is not a magic bullet. It gives us breathing space, so to speak. When you get one shot of OCV, you are protected for six months. In an ideal environment, you are supposed to get two shots, protection goes up to three years. So this gives us a great space to organize other drivers of cholera. So we have started the OCV campaign,” said Dr Karimu.
The OCV rollout commenced on January 29 , 2024 in Kuwadzana, Harare. Even though the program has recorded successes, it continues to face uptake challenges owing to a myriad of factor chief among them being vaccine hesitancy and vaccine misinformation.
“I’m glad to report that in some provinces, coverage that is the targeted population and what they’ve actually received has been above 100%. But we still have some challenges in Harare. Coverage in Harare still is around 60%. We expect it to continue peaking. We still have some challenges in Manicaland. Coverage is around 70 to 80% as well as Chitungwiza. So that’s where we have challenges in terms of OCC coverage. But the challenges are surmountable.”
He added that another contributing factor to the low uptake is the nature in which the vaccines are arriving as they are coming in batches. Zimbabwe is expecting another delivery today and the last delivery is expected on Saturday.
“These deliveries now will move into Harare to try and cover this low coverage. So this low coverage is reflective of the way the vaccines are coming into the country. We are receiving a total of 2.3 million. That’s what has been approved. We haven’t received all of it, but we are almost around 80-90% of our deliveries of the OCV vaccine,” he said.