Don’t shake hands at funerals, use a fist or elbow, Zimbabwe health minister advises after cholera outbreak


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Let us also avoid big gatherings during outbreaks such as this one. You are aware that certain church gathering are going to be happening this weekend and we are urging that you inform the Ministry of Health and Child Care so that they are properly supervised and education is given to the people who come to those funerals. We are going to give those particular gatherings particular conditions that they must follow before they can gather. In other words there must be sufficient water, sanitary facilities and funerals should be supervised by health workers.

A recent assessment conducted by my team at the Ministry as well as the City of Harare went to Matapi Flats which I also visited to assess the drivers of typhoid which are the same as those of cholera revealed that the conditions of living for that community at Matapi are extremely deplorable. At Matapi Flats and other flats in Mbare there is human waste, burst sewer pipes, uncollected refuse, litter, rampant vending in undesignated areas of all sorts of food that is taking place. In Matapi people stay there it is absolutely overcrowded and we also managed to quantify in monetary terms what is needed for the time being for repairing of the ageing infrastructure at Matapi Flats, especially sewer pipes, toilets, washing areas and we only need between $16 000 to $25 000. This is something that can be done and will not cost more than $500 000 to the complete the whole infrastructure at Matampi and in Mbare.

The Ministry’s National Response Team were last week conducting cholera prepared assessments at Chirundu and Kariba border posts. We were concerned and we remain concerned that the huge number of travelers to and from Lusaka, Zambia where a huge cholera outbreak has been reported could spread to this country. It was paramount that we put in place screening mechanisms at these borders for travellers to quantify the needs in the event of cases occurring there and also to put temporary holding camps or treatment camps at the appropriate border places. We are also putting commodities and sensitising other Government departments on cholera.

The multi sectoral team and committees have been activated at these border posts and are functional. They meet daily to deliberate on control measures at border posts including Victoria Falls. At Victoria Falls in particular, we have made sure that there has been some drastic action that has been taken where vendors and cross borders come to Zimbabwe from Zambia and we have discouraged that movement for the time being.

Action taken so far to contain outbreak in Chegutu – all the provinces in the country have been put on high alert to cholera and are holding task force meetings in preparation for any cases that may occur in their localities. A treatment camp closer to where the patients are coming from has been set up at Chinengundu clinic in Chegutu. Those that are sick or have signs and symptoms of cholera illness are encouraged to come for screening and treatment. Supplies are being mobilised and transported to the treatment camp and these include adequate IV fluids, antibiotics, disinfectants and other necessary accessories. We have had support from MSF, UNICEF and from other stakeholders and donors.

The preparation and consumption of food at funerals and other gatherings should be supervised by health workers. We urge the population especially in the cholera affected areas to avoid shaking of hands during gatherings to avoid the spread of cholera. We are aware that our custom here in Zimbabwe tinobatana maoko – kubva watobata maoko chaizvo but sometimes that is vehicle of spreading the cholera germs.

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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