Zimbabwe cholera cases could double – doctors

cholera_patients.jpgPeople infected with Cholera
Harare - Medical experts have forecast that a worst-case scenario in Zimbabwe's rampaging cholera epidemic could see earlier predictions double to 123 000 cases and go beyond May this year.

Just over a week ago, according to the Zimbabwean Association of
Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), the epidemic passed Africa’s worst,
in Angola in 2007, when over 82 000 people were infected with the
highly infectious water-borne disease and 3 204 died. Late last year
the World Health Organisation estimated that the worst-case figure
could reach 60 000 cases, a level passed already in January. By Friday
last week the WHO had recorded 84 027 cases, with 3 894 deaths recorded
in Zimbabwe. The rate of fatalities had reached 4.6 percent, nearly
five times what the WHO regards as "acceptable." The Cholera Command
and Control Centre, comprising officials from the WHO, the Zimbabwe
health ministry and aid agencies involved in combatting the epidemic,
early last month forecast up to 92 000 infections. But, according to
ZADHR, the continuing rapid increase in cases and still-collapsed state
of the health, water and sanitation systems meant "the worst-case
scenario of 122 945 seems likely to occur if drastic improvements …
are not made immediately."

Fighting the epidemic has become one of the most urgent tasks of the
18-day-old coalition government between President Robert Mugabe’a Zanu
PF party and new prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for
Democratic Change. The outbreak of the disease in August was triggered
by the simultaneous breakdown of water supply, sanitation and refuse
collection services in crowded townships. "Warnings … of an impending
major cholera outbreak went unheeded," the doctors association found.
It took Mugabe’s government four months to declare the disease a
national emergency. In recent weeks, aid agencies have significantly
reduced the number of cases in urban areas but the outbreak is
continuing to make inroads into rural areas and into the country’s
river system. The number of people dying at home, with no access to
healthcare and little money for basic rehydration products such as
sugar and salt, is now at 60 percent. Last week, top WHO official
Daniel Acuna said that a massive effort by aid agencies might bring the
epidemic "to a reasonable pattern of control" within three weeks. "This
is a big if," he warned. "If we don’t make that push, we may continue
to seeing this for many more weeks, and have an absolutely avoidable
toll of people who could be living healthy lives."


Post published in: Analysis

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