Cases in rural east of country raise fears of repeat of recent epidemic that killed more than 4,000 people. Cholera is spread through infected water.
Cholera has returned to Zimbabwe amid fears of a repeat of the recent epidemic that killed more than 4,000 people.
Twelve new cases of the water-borne disease were reported in an outlying rural district last week, although none proved fatal.
Both the United Nations and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have warned of fresh outbreaks of cholera when Zimbabwe’s rainy season begins in the next three months.
Aid officials said 12 infections had been recorded last week in Chibuwe district near Chipinge farming town, more than 180 miles south-east of Harare, according to the news agency ZimOnline. Ten patients were successfully treated and discharged from hospital while two were being held for observation.
NGOs expressed fears that the disease could spread again in a country currently hit by a doctors’ strike over pay. “The outbreak of cholera in Chibuwe has caused panic among community members and health personnel,” said an NGO alert quoted by ZimOnline. “The cases are sporadic as they
are reported in different villages. Nurse in charge at Chibuwe clinic fears that there is likely to be more cholera cases in the area.”
The disease killed 4,288 people out of 98,592 infections between August 2008 and July 2009. When new cases tailed off, Zimbabwe’s government declared the epidemic over.
But many of the underlying problems remain, such as city waterpipes that are at least 50 years old and would take millions of dollars to upgrade.
The water resources minister, Sam Sipepa Nkomo, admitted recently that 70% of the population lacks access to clean water and advised Harare residents against drinking from their taps.
Rian van de Braak of MSF said the threat was “definitely not over”.
“Everyone expects cholera to be back because the root cause for the outbreak has not been addressed adequately yet. The dilapidated water and sewage systems are still a major problem,” she said.
Unicef’s Peter Salama said another outbreak was “almost inevitable”.
“There is a deterioration of infrastructure in the country and Zimbabwe has not made progress in improving this infrastructure. This will expose people to another cholera outbreak again,” he said.
The government last week also reported Zimbabwe’s first confirmed cases of swine flu.