Fear Of More Cholera Deaths As Pandemic Spreads

THE advice by MPs, civic society and medical personnel not to transfer water management from city councils to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa)


  that was ignored by government three years ago has come back to haunt it as the state battles to contain the deadly cholera outbreak.
One does not need to travel far from Harare’s city centre to realise the devastating impact of the fatal water-borne disease.
A 15-minutes drive to house number 6042 Tsoka Road in Glen Norah B high density suburb reveals the sorrow that has engulfed the Dziruni family which is still coming to grips with just how painful it is to lose loved ones to a preventable and treatable disease like cholera.
The family is in anguish, mourning the death of their two daughters — Maria (24) and Bridget Dziruni (21) — who succumbed to cholera on November 12 at Budiriro Polyclinic.
It takes a considerable time for Mike Dziruni, an uncle to the girls, to narrate their tragic deaths.
Mike, who was with the girls during their illness until death, still does not understand or believe that cholera could be so cruel.
Maria and Bridgette were staying in Glen Norah with their grandparents after their parents died about 10 years ago.
What started as a normal day on November 11 turned to be the worst Mike can remember in his life.
He remembered: “Maria was the first to fall sick and that was around 4pm. She was vomiting and discharging a watery liquid. I took her to Budiriro Polyclinic because we suspected she had cholera.
“Upon arrival she was given sugar and salt solution and three hours later, the nurses injected her intravenously (commonly known as drip) because her condition was getting worse.”
Mike said before Maria – who left behind a two-year-old daughter Praise Tanyaradzwa – got sick she had spent the day at home and not visited any of the cholera affected areas.
“I strongly believe that it is the water that we drink and the raw sewage that flows in the streets that made her sick. We don’t have regular supply of water and when it comes it will be dirty. The sewage and the uncollected refuse have seen flies hovering all over and at times you see worms,” Mike said.
After five intravenous injections, Maria still showed no signs of improvement and when the nurses took her to another room and told Mike not to follow, he knew something was wrong.
“They took Maria to another room and just told me to wait outside. I could tell that things were not okay,” he said.
Little did Mike know that things were also not okay at home. When he left with Maria to the clinic Bridgette, Maria’s sister, complained of stomach pains and was vomiting.
At 8pm she decided to go to the clinic for treatment.
Mike said: “I bumped into Bridgette at the clinic when I was taking the sugar and salt solution to Maria. She came by herself and I thought she had followed to see how Maria was doing. I was shocked when she told me that she had come to seek treatment because she also was not feeling well.”
He helped Bridgette obtain a medical card and she was given salt and sugar solution the whole night as they sat on the benches available in the clinic.
“In the morning, Bridgette was not feeling any better and she still had not been given any drip and I had not been told anything about Maria’s progress since she was taken into another room. I decided to go back home and get their clothes so that they could change and also inform other relatives of the situation,” Mike said.
When he returned to the clinic, Mike said Bridgette’s condition had worsened and an order was given that she be intravenously injected.
“We put her in a wheelchair, but a problem emerged when a nurse could not find the right vein for the injection. She passed away while they were still searching for a vein,” Mike said.
He said when the other relatives went to check on Maria’s progress at around 1pm they found out that she was already dead.
Mike said: “Maria could have passed away way before 1pm, just that we weren’t told and there was so much going on. It is very painful to lose two relatives in one day.
“Worse still on the day of the funeral it took the health workers some time to come and spray the coffins. They arrived just when we were about to leave for the cemetery. We had spent the whole night with the corpses. What good does it do?”
He added:  “Government iri kutikanya (government is failing us). Right now we do not have water and rivers of raw sewage are flowing in our streets from Muroro Road. They send us text messages that we should eat hot food, boil water but we do not have electricity to do so. Electricity is cut off early in the morning and comes back in the evening at around 11pm. Firewood is very expensive and we get only $500 000 from the bank. How is it possible then to have hot food regularly or boiled water?”  
Another member of the family who preferred anonymity said she was saddened by the way some members of the community were isolating them.
 “People point fingers when they pass our home and at times you can hear them saying “pamba apo pane cholera” (that house is infested with cholera) and even if we meet them in the streets they don’t greet us, they say “imi muri vecholera kaimi”. They don’t know it can also happen to them,” she said.
Zinwa is accused of failing to supply clean potable water and deal with sewer blockages since its took over water management from councils three years ago. The authority said lack of foreign currency to buy water treatment chemicals and water pipes was affecting its operations.

 

By Lucia Makamure/Wongai Zhangazha