Five people have died of cholera in Buhera in recent days bringing the number of Zimbabweans that have succumbed to the water-borne disease to 54 since the latest outbreak began last month, it has been revealed.
By Phyllis Mbanje
The five victims were reportedly members of a religious sect, which prohibits its members from getting medical care in conventional facilities.
According to Portia Manangazira, the director of epidemiology and disease control at the Ministry of Health and Child Care, one of the five people, who are all related, had travelled to Harare for a funeral and possibly contracted the disease there.
He fell sick on his return home, but avoided going to hospital and rejected help. Four of the man’s relatives also contracted the disease and refused to go to hospital.
“It is a challenge when such conservative churches do not allow members to be attended to at healthcare facilities especially in the face of diseases like cholera,” Manangazira said.
She said a national rapid response team would be despatched to Manicaland tomorrow to investigate the incident.
Health minister Obadiah Moyo, speaking during a handover of donations towards cholera interventions at Harare’s Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital on Friday, said he was concerned about religious groups that were putting people’s lives at risk.
“There has been resistance to our efforts by these religious groups and that is indeed sad because the deaths had stabilised at 49,” he said.
Moyo said the cholera outbreak was worsened by ageing infrastructure in Harare, resulting in sewage pipe bursts.
“If we remain as we are, we will not be able to contain this but government and stakeholders like Econet and other corporates have really come together to rectify the situation,” he said.
Moyo said the rehabilitation of infrastructure would ensure that the country ends cholera outbreaks.
“However, the cholera outbreak is under control and we continue to monitor the hot spots,” he said.
Over 5 000 people have been hospitalised since the first cholera case was detected in early September. Moyo dismissed reports that the number of cholera cases was being understated by the authorities.
“What would we benefit by lying about the figures? We collate statistics from all provinces and these are double-checked,” he said.
Meanwhile, the donations, included one million rand worth of drugs from Novartis, 300 blankets from the Standards Association of Zimbabwe, as well as 100 units of liquid soaps and 100 units of toilet cleaner from the Health Professions Authority.