The health services director of Harare City Council, Prosper Chonzi, has confirmed a cholera outbreak in the capital, with seven confirmed cases among a total of 21 reported cases. The outbreak is concentrated in the western suburbs, with four confirmed cases in Budiriro, two in Glen View 3 and one in Mt Pleasant Heights.
Chonzi has called on residents to take the outbreak seriously, warning that it has the potential to spread rapidly. “We need to be on high alert,” he said. The warning follows advice from health experts that the outbreak could escalate into an uncontrollable epidemic without decisive action.
The first cholera case was reported on February 12 this year in Chegutu, Mashonaland West province. Since then, the waterborne disease has spread to nine of the country’s 10 provinces, with Matabeleland South emerging as a hotspot. No cases have yet been reported in Matabeleland North.
The continued presence of cholera is a cause for concern, according to Itai Rusike, executive director of the Community Working Group on Health. “The people of Zimbabwe should be worried by the continued presence of cholera in the country given that the health system has been weakened by the lack of sustainable domestic health financing, hyperinflation and outflow of health workers,” he said.
Cholera is a highly infectious and potentially deadly waterborne disease, caused by ingestion of contaminated water or food. The disease is easily preventable through basic sanitation and hygiene measures, such as hand washing, and access to clean water and safe food. However, these measures are often lacking in impoverished communities, which are most at risk of cholera outbreaks.
Efforts to control the current outbreak are urgently needed, including the provision of clean water and sanitation facilities, and public education on the importance of hygiene and sanitation.