By Johannes Marisa
PUBLIC health is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and improving quality of life through organised efforts and informed choices of society, organisations, communities and individuals.
Many diseases have devastated communities for a long time, but they could easily have been halted had people joined hands to combat them.
Today, the world is in tatters due to COVID-19, a virus that has brewed misery since December 2019 when it was detected in Wuhan province, China.
Close to 3,5 million people have succumbed to this virulent virus and judging by what is happening today, it looks like it is still with us.
The trend can go for a long time in cycles but one way or the other, all of us will be caught in the noose.
Zimbabwe has witnessed many outbreaks of waterborne and food-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid both of which have demanded a lot of resources to curb them.
In 2008, the country was hit on all fronts — health, political and economic — as cholera decimated the population, inflation reached astronomical levels while elections were sadistic.
More than 4 200 people lost their lives to cholera.
Typhoid came with sporadic attacks, especially in Harare, and it is a pity that in 2018 alone, the Health and Child Care ministry recorded more than 4 000 cases of typhoid, with more than 25% of the affected being children under the age of five.
This week Zimbabwe is doing a campaign on the new Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TCV), which is set to be administered on children between nine months and 15 years.
This is a milestone for our country as Zimbabwe becomes the second country in Africa to access such a vaccine after Liberia adopted it last month.
Government has done its part in order to contain such water-borne diseases, but looking up to medical solutions on issues that need a whole array of measures is not just unfair but unfortunate.
Typhoid is a bacterial disease caused by a gram negative, rod-shaped flagellated bacterium whose only reservoir is the human body.
Contamination comes via water or food, a phenomenon which is obvious considering the state of our towns and cities.
Yes, children are going to get protection from typhoid attacks through the vaccine. However, what efforts have all the key stakeholders made to avoid the future outbreaks?
This should be the time for both collaborative and complementary efforts if diseases like cholera and typhoid are to be contained.
Prevention has always been deemed more important than cure and that is an incontrovertible truth.
It is a pity that towns and cities are failing on public health issues as if they do not have health departments.
One wonders why the entire health department superintendents over a collapsed health delivery service that puts the health of everyone at risk.
Questions still linger in our minds and we expect concrete answers if we are to have a robust health delivery service in cities.
Yes, TCV is now celebrated in Zimbabwe, but what are we doing about the following issues?
- The perennial water shortages that have bedevilled many councils for some time.
Forty-one years after independence, we still have the same water reservoirs which used to cater for Harare when its population was less than 70 000.
- Sewage reticulation has been very poor, resulting in interminable bursts and contamination of water bodies especially in Harare.
We cannot have a city experiencing the same problems yearly yet city fathers, directors and engineers are being paid huge salaries every month.
One wonders if some of these employees were recruited on merit or there was favouritism or nepotism at play.
- The nauseating garbage on streets is a source of food contamination. Mbare Musika is an eyesore today with uncollected garbage filling up trenches and pavements, a situation which can be a precursor to diarrhoeal diseases like dysentery, cholera and typhoid.
Why do we wait for outbreaks to occur yet we can run around now without any pressure? Do we still have proper leadership or management in public offices that can deliver services to the people?
- Perennial corruption in local governance is bleeding the nation at large. A lot of money is lost through corruption and the culprits continue roaming the streets.
Some cases do not even reach prosecution because the corrupt rich use all the resources at their disposal to evade justice.
This is Africa for you and the corruption scourge will likely continue unchecked.
While we appreciate government efforts in acquiring the vaccines, what have we done as individuals or organisations to ensure health in our country?
Collaborative efforts are the missing link.
Sooner than later we will realise that an efficient health delivery service is a vital ingredient of development.