Another cholera flare-up looms in Zimbabwe
Another cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe is likely, according to the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.
A document produced by WHO and the ministry stresses that a cholera epidemic - similar to the deadly one experienced in 2008 - cannot be ruled out.
The Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin from the ministry and WHO says cases of cholera continue to be reported .
About 937 cases were reported last year, with 22 deaths, and this year there have already been 16 deaths among 431 cases reported.
The document states: "Nine out of the 62 districts - Bikita, Buhera, Chimanimani, Chipinge, Chiredzi, Kadoma, Murewa, Mutare and Mutasa - have reported cases since the start of 2011. There were 431 cumulative cases: 373 suspected cases, 58 laboratory-confirmed cases and 16 deaths reported by March 20. The crude case fatality rate is 1.6%."
Most of the cholera cases, 94.9%, are reportedly occurring in rural areas, where drainage systems are poor and hygiene is at a minimum.
In 2009, it was reported that cholera victims in Zimbabwe were 10 times more likely to die than those who contracted the disease elsewhere, according to aid agencies such as the Red Cross.
The area most affected by the disease is Mutare, where 152 cases have been reported already this year.
According to Portia Manangazira, the epidemiology and disease control director in the Ministry of Health, Apostolic churches contribute to the difficulties in fighting the disease. Taking clinical medicines is against the Apostolic creed and in most cases members hide their children from immunisation and treatment against disease.
The government has promised to work on provisions to arrest people who hide children needing treatment from Ministry of Health and Child Welfare officials.
Another problem in Zimbabwe's fight against cholera is funding. The emergency response fund (ERF) last month hosted a round-table donor event to support the fund. Speakers included the Norwegian ambassador; Christian Care, representing Zimbabwe's NGOs; Help Germany, representing international NGOs which have received ERF funding in the past, and the United Nations' Humanitarian Coordinator.
The Norwegian ambassador emphasised the decline in financial contributions to the ERF comes against a delicate humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. The country's preparedness and response capacity in case of a cholera outbreak remain weak.