A CHOLERA outbreak in two north-ern districts of Zimbabwe has so far claimed the lives of 26 people, aid agencies reported on Monday. According to the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) a total of 173 cholera cases have be
en recorded in Kariba (Mashonaland West) and Binga (Matabeleland North) since the outbreak in mid-October.
Unicef said although unsafe drinking water was the main cause for the rapid spread of the disease in the affected communities, “poor communication from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare” headed by David Parirenyatwa was to blame for the slow response to the outbreak.
The agency warned that as the rainy season approached, the current critical shortage of chemicals to treat water could heighten the danger of cholera and other waterborne diseases.
Last week it was reported that a major supplier of water treatment chemicals had cut supplies to the Harare city council for allegedly failing to pay a debt of $3,2 billion.
In response to the outbreak, Unicef had dispatched 140 000 water treatment tablets and was in the process of procuring water containers and chlorinated lime for decontaminating water. As households across the country continued to battle with economic difficulties, the World Food Programme (WFP) this week reported an increase in the number of children under five years registering retarded growth in Harare and Bulawayo.
In its latest situation report, WFP noted that although some 35 000 of these children were enrolled for supplementary feeding at 20 clinics across the capital, there had been a 30% readmission of malnourished children at Harare Hospital.
Despite Unicef’s efforts to assist the growing number of children in need, HIV/Aids had exacerbated the situation.
“Retarded growth is a direct result of the lack of food, especially varied food. Urban households cannot afford the food basket, which means children are not getting the required nutritional intake. What has made the situation worse is, of course, the HIV/Aids pandemic,” Unicef information officer Shantha Bloemen told Irin.
Health care centres have remarked that many of the children who are readmitted have HIV.