State puts tight lid on cholera stats

17 November 2008 

The residents of Harare are irked by the way in which the state has gagged all health centres attending to Cholera cases in a bid to keep the statistics under wrap.

During the past week, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)
received numerous reports from residents to the effect that more than
100 people have died (between October and November) at the Budiriro
Poly Clinic as well as Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital where
cholera patients are being attended to but the government has never
released this information in the state media. Two members of the CHRA
Secretariat, however, despite some drama in which some state
agents-like men confiscated their cameras and vehicle and momentarily
illegally detained them, managed access to the Beatrice Infectious
Diseases Hospital and caught a glimpse of the rate at which people are

At the time of arrival around mid-day of the 16th of November 2008,
there were over 50 patients queuing at the hospital. Within less than
an hour spent at the hospital 6 deaths (5 adults and 1 child) had been
recorded. During the three hours that the CHRA Secretariat was
observing the goings-on at the Hospital, an average of 5 patients would
be brought in at 20 minute intervals. The hospital has run out of
admission beds and some patients who are considered to be seriously ill
are made to lie down under trees upon which the water drips are then

Furthermore, the hospital is heavily understaffed because of the
general brain drain which has crippled the country’s health and other
sectors and because of the magnitude of the Cholera scourge which has
seen the hospital staff working over time. The nursing staff at the
hospital is said to be largely nurse aides taken from other health
centres. The City of Harare Director of Health, Stanley Mungofa was the
only senior person there and he was busy writing prescriptions for the
patients. Some nurse aides, whom our staff members managed to talk to,
said that the hospital had run out of protective clothing and
disinfectants thus they also risked contracting the disease. The
toilets that are supposed to be used by patients at the hospital are
also very dirty which makes the hope of reducing the cholera scourge
very distant.  

The conditions at Budiriro Poly clinic are no better as some of the
patients actually mess themselves at the environs of the clinic and
there is no adequate water to clean up the mess. Even those people
without cholera who visit the place usually contract the disease from
the clinic.   

In its propagandizing mission, the state media has reported very
conservative Cholera statistics (a paltry 37 deaths) in a bid to
conceal the reality on the ground. The government continues to pretend
that all is well in the country and can not acknowledge failure. This
only helps to further illuminate the Government and ZINWA’s culpability
of the Cholera pandemic and deprives the victims and the nation of the
desperately needed aid. 

CHRA is in the process of compiling more statistics of the Cholera
cases in Harare and will continue to mobilize support for the affected
and infected residents and to push for the return of water and sewer
management to the City Council.

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