Thursday December 13, 2018

Harare, Zimbabwe Suffers From Cholera Outbreak

Poor hygiene, water quality and waste disposal in densely populated areas remain unsolved.

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Cholera, Zimbabwe
Cholera patients lie in beds in Budiriro clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe. VOA
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Lizzy Maupa uses a bucket to transfer water she used to bathe from her tub to her toilet.

She has a four-week-old baby and a three-year-old child, but the city water supply has not been working for a month, says Maupa.

So she collects water from a nearby river, which she boils to drink. Maupa is being extra careful after Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health on Thursday announced an outbreak of cholera in their part of the city

Cholera, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Health Minister David Parirenyatwa warns people to wash their hands and drink only clean water. VOA

“I have heard about it. I heard on the news last night,” she says. “So I am trying to be hygienic so that I can take care of the little ones. It has been difficult. I have too many water demands.”

 

Zimbabwe’s outgoing Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told reporters late Thursday approximately 40 people were being treated for cholera and five had already died from diarrhea and vomiting, typical symptoms of the water-borne disease.

During a visit to a temporary cholera treatment camp in Harare, he warned people to wash their hands and drink only clean water.

“It is usually a problem of contaminated water. These people were drinking water from, we suspect from one or two boreholes that our team has gone to take samples from,” he explained. “If they are contaminated, they will be decommissioned for now. Those that we have here are getting much, much better. As usual prevention, prevention, prevention is key otherwise we will have an outbreak throughout the country.”

 

Cholera, Zimbabwe
Calvin Fambirai, the head of Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights in Harare warns the country must improve basic sanitation to prevent further outbreaks. VOA

A 2008 cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe lasted over a year and killed about 5,000 people.

 

It was stopped only after international groups like USAID donated drugs and water treatment chemicals.

The head of Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights Calvin Fambirai warns the country must improve basic sanitation to prevent further outbreaks.

“The conditions that necessitate the spread of cholera and typhoid in Zimbabwe haven’t changed,” he warned. “They are becoming worse by the day. The first problem we face is authorities haven’t been giving resources necessary for the improvement of service delivery in the country to make sure that these archaic diseases do not continue to break out.”

Cholera, Zimbabwe
Some Harare citizens walk by a heap of waste which has not been collected for days. Experts say that is a breeding zone for cholera. VOA

Poor hygiene, water quality and waste disposal in densely populated areas remain unsolved, notes Fambirai.

Also Read: US Airport Gets 2 Health Scare From Inbound Flights

Residents often go for weeks without running water or waste collection.

Health Minister Parirenyatwa said the sanitation situation would improve a promise that many have heard before. (VOA)

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Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely.

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Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda, women
Congolese health workers register people and take their temperatures before they are vaccinated against Ebola in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the throes of its worst-ever Ebola outbreak, with more than 420 cases in the country’s volatile east, and a mortality rate of just under 60 percent. But this outbreak — the nation’s tenth known Ebola epidemic — is unusual because more than 60 percent of patients are women.

Among them is Baby Benedicte. Her short life has already been unimaginably difficult.

At one month old, she is underweight, at 2.9 kilograms. And she is alone. Her mother had Ebola, and died giving birth to her. She’s spent the last three weeks of her life in a plastic isolation cube, cut off from most human contact. She developed a fever at eight days old and was transferred to this hospital in Beni, a town of some half-million people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 400 people have been diagnosed with Ebola here since the beginning of August, and more than half of them have died in a nation the size of Western Europe that struggles with insecurity and a lack of the most basic infrastructure and services. That makes this the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, after the hemorrhagic fever killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

This is 10th outbreak to strike the vast country since 1976, when Ebola was first identified in Congo. And this particular outbreak is further complicated by a simmering civil conflict that has plagued this region for more than two decades.

Guido Cornale, UNICEF’s coordinator in the region, says the scope of this outbreak is clear.

“It has become the worst outbreak in Congo, this is not a mystery,” he said.

What is mysterious, however, is the demographics of this outbreak. This time, more than 60 percent of cases are women, says the government’s regional health coordinator, Ndjoloko Tambwe Bathe.

“All the analyses show that this epidemic is feminized. Figures like this are alarming. It’s true that the female cases are more numerous than the male cases,” he said.

Congo, Uganda, ebola, Women
Health workers walk with a boy suspected of having been infected with the Ebola virus, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, near Congo’s border with Uganda. VOA

Bathe declined to predict when the outbreak might end, though international officials have said it may last another six months. Epidemiologists are still studying why this epidemic is so skewed toward women and children, Cornale said.

“So now we can only guess. And one of the guesses is that woman are the caretakers of sick people at home. So if a family member got sick, who is taking care of him or her? Normally, a woman,” he said.

Or a nurse. Many of those affected are health workers, who are on the front line of battling this epidemic. Nurse Guilaine Mulindwa Masika, spent 16 days in care after a patient transmitted the virus to her. She says it was the fight of her life.

“The pain was enormous, the pain was constant,” she said. “The headache, the diarrhea, the vomiting, and the weakness — it was very, very bad.”

Congo, Ebola, Women
Marie-Roseline Darnycka Belizaire, World Health Organization (WHO) Epidemiology Team Lead, talks to women as part of Ebola contact tracing, in Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely. Masika and her cured colleagues face weeks of leave from work to ensure the risk of infection is gone. In the main hospital in the city of Beni, families who have recovered live together in a large white tent, kept four meters from human contact by a bright orange plastic cordon. They yell hello at their caretakers, who must don protective gear if they want to get any closer.

And for Baby Benedicte, who is tended to constantly by a nurse covered head to toe in protective gear, the future is uncertain. Medical workers aren’t entirely sure where her father is, or if he is going to come for her.

Also Read: Congo Start Trials For Drugs Against Ebola

She sleeps most of the day, the nurse says, untroubled by the goings-on around her. Meanwhile, the death toll rises. (VOA)