5 September 2002

Masvingo: Cholera oputbreak

According to reports from Masvingo, an outbreak of cholera and dysentery has hit the Bikita and Zaka districts of Masvingo province, where 10 people have died amid fears that the diseases might spread to other parts of the province because of huge gatherings prompted by mass starvation. As hunger tightens its grip in Masvingo province, hundreds of people are now spending weeks queueing for scarce maize supplies at townships and service centres with inadequate water and toilet facilities for such numbers, creating the ideal environment for the spread of the water-borne diseases. The diseases have claimed six lives in Zaka’s Chiredzana area while four have died in Bikita. In Bikita district alone, four people have died from the diseases in the Fuve and Odzi areas, while nine are reported to be battling for their lives at Mashoko Mission and Fuve hospitals. In Zaka, three people were by yesterday still detained at St Anthony’s Mission Hospital. Health officials said they were battling to contain the diseases.

Confirming the deaths yesterday, Tapuwa Magure, the Masvingo provincial medical director, said camps had been set up in the affected areas to keep track of the outbreak. He expressed strong fears that the diseases might spread to other parts of the province because of poor water and sanitary facilities. Magure said: "We are worried with the development and monitoring camps have been set up in the affected areas. We have not established whether the cases in Bikita and Zaka are linked." Sources in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare said health personnel deployed in the affected areas could not cope with the outbreak. The situation, according to sources, has been aggravated by the current drought which has forced people to swarm to rural service centres in the hope of getting food as their reserves have completely run out, straining the existing water and sanitary facilities. One source said: "There are several gatherings in some of the affected areas, as people converge in search of food. This has affected all measures which have been put in place to contain the diseases." (ZWNews / Daily News)


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