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

Active surveillance including contact tracing of persons who attended funerals of the cholera deaths are being followed up in Harare and other areas. I must add here that when these people died because there was a particular religious sect, there are people who came from all over. Some came from Harare, Chitungwiza, Epworth and attended this funeral. That was the danger that is what we feared that when they left that funeral they could cede that cholera elsewhere. We are following up on those particular people who have gone to Epworth and Mabvuku to make sure that if they have got any symptoms, we are able to manage them.

Control of food vending in undesignated areas is being enforced in Chegutu including inspection of food premises. They have started water tracking with the help of a mining company in the area so that people have clean water for drinking. They bring these big bowsers of water and we are hoping that they can put them into water bladders so that the people there are serviced.

The District Civil Protection Committee in Chegutu has been activated and meetings are being held twice daily and are being chaired by the District Administrator to tackle the cholera outbreak. I must congratulate the Hon. Member for Chegutu who was always with us, Hon. Dexter Nduna – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – he has been with us and worked very hard. The Provincial Medical Director of Mashonaland West Province and his team are on the ground to render support to control this particular cholera outbreak.

The National Response Team which is based here in Harare is also on the ground in Chegutu with the Province and some of the people are here in the House to support us; Dr. Phiri and Dr. Chimusoro from WHO and UNICEF representation. So, they are taking this very seriously. We have activated the Inter Agency Coordinating Committee on Health, which is chaired by my Ministry for resource mobilisation and our partners in health have been mobilised and they are on the ground, World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Belgium, GAA and to some extent Oxfam, European Union (EU) and ECO.

We have also activated thematic committees on cholera comprising of all Government departments, uniformed forces, other donors and partners and these are meeting daily here in Harare and in Chegutu to deal with this cholera outbreak. The committees have been divided into Health and Surveillance, Health Education, Social Mobilisation, Coordination, Logistics, Water Sanitation and Hygiene.

I personally visited Chegutu twice to render support and to get first hand information on the outbreak. We have had meetings with the DMO and his team and the Mayor and visited patients who are admitted in the treatment ward and visited the locality where the cases are emanating from. We have conducted a Press Conference on the 22nd of January, 2018 to inform the nation about the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe.

Finally, all of us have a responsibility to contain this cholera outbreak. We recommend that we raise awareness in our constituencies and I think it is very important that Hon. Members and Hon. Senators raise awareness. We are prepared as a Ministry to give you packages of information so that you can disseminate when you go to your particular constituencies. We want you to also mobilise in the villages, schools and wherever we come from so that people get information on cholera. Let us also try very much as a country to have uninterrupted supply of water all the time. This is giving us a huge challenge, if you do not have clean portable water and you do not have appropriate sanitation, we will not win the war against cholera, typhoid and other enteric diseases.

At this time, we urge people, even in Harare to boil their water before they drink it. As usual, please avoid shaking hands at funerals. If you have to do it, please use a fist or elbow and that has stood us nicely. We also urge our radios, televisions and media in general to also talk about cholera in terms of educating our people. We are hoping that this cholera outbreak can be contained and it is really a task for all of us as a nation.

The breakdown in terms of numbers – like I said today, the suspected cases are 65, 30 are female and 35 are male, 17 are under the age of 18 and 10 are under the age of 5. So, the breakdown is according to the age and sex and I think we should be able as a nation to be alert to this cholera outbreak. I thank you Mr. Speaker.

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