Typhoid, measles raise fears of new health crisis

The number of cases of typhoid fever in Harare is increasing, raising fears of another serious health crisis in the country.

More than 140 cases of typhoid have been reported in the Mabvuku-Tafara suburb of Harare over the past two weeks. At least five people are known to have died so far from the mainly water borne disease.

Typhoid, which is very similar to cholera, is transmitted by food or water contaminated with waste from an infected person. The Harare City Council has now ordered all food handlers to undergo medical tests to try curb what appears to be the rapid spread of the disease.

Mabvuku-Tafara had only recently recovered from the outbreak of cholera in 2008 that left thousands of people dead across the country. The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) has said there are now fears that typhoid will have the same impact, because the dilapidated and broken sanitation system and water infrastructure that caused the cholera outbreak remains unfixed.

The group expressed concern for the Harare suburb of Mufakose, where more than one hundred families have had their clean water supplies cut off by the council. The water cuts are related to an ongoing dispute over council water bills, which residents have reported are exorbitant.

The bills, often calculated on the basis of estimates, have also not taken into account the numerous times that there has been absolutely no water available. CHRA said in a statement that the added threat of typhoid in the city is reason enough for the council to ensure that clean water is readily available.

CHRA urges the City of Harare to seriously consider the implications of disconnecting water supplies to residents, especially considering the fact that Harare is still vulnerable to diseases caused by acute water shortages. These residents have no other sources of water and it is likely that they will resort to unprotected water sources, the group said in a statement.

At the same time, an outbreak of measles is having a devastating affect in Bulawayo, where a number of infant deaths has rocked the community. The country has been battling a nationwide measles outbreak since last September and there have been over 1800 cases and at least 75 deaths.

SW Radio Africas Bulawayo correspondent Lionel Saungweme said that many infants in the city have succumbed to the illness in recent weeks. He explained that there have been at last four infant deaths just in the area where he lives in the past month.

These numbers will definitely rise because I know of seven other cases in my area, Saungweme said. The communities are absolutely shocked and scared.

Mobile measles immunisation units are being rolled out for children six years and younger, who are most at risk of contracting the illness.

Post published in: Analysis

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