6 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Diarrhoea Kills 265 People

At least 265 people, mostly children under five years, died from common diarrhoea this year out of more than 428 000 cases of the disease recorded countrywide. Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera said on Tuesday that out of the cases, 10 688 of them and seven deaths were recorded last week.

Minister Madzorera was updating journalists in Harare on the state of diarrhoea, typhoid and other enteric diseases ahead of the festive season.

"We have 428 894 reported cases of common diarrhoea countrywide and it is from these cases that we have recorded 265 deaths," Minister Madzorera said.

"Of the reported cases during the week ending November 18, 5 196 cases and five deaths were from children under the age of five.

"The provinces which reported the highest numbers of diarrhoea cases were Mashonaland East (1 760) and Mashonaland Central (1 506)."

Minister Madzorera said as of Tuesday, the cumulative figures for reported suspected typhoid cases in Harare this year stood at 937 and 62 of them have been confirmed positive.

Most of the cases are from Glen View.

Chitungwiza recorded 481 cases of suspected typhoid, 96 cases have been confirmed and the town has recorded three deaths this year.

Minister Madzorera said it would be difficult for Zimbabwe to reduce the diarrhoea and typhoid cases because their causes remain unaddressed.

"Sustained provision of adequate and safe water is not guaranteed for rural and urban communities, sewerage and solid waste is also poorly processed and managed in all the major urban areas," he said.

"These are an absolute requirement to population health and well being, and their current state explains the persistence of outbreaks."

Disease outbreaks, Minister Madzorera said, were costly to Government as more resources have to be channeled towards prevention.

"The effective response to outbreaks requires a great deal of resources, logistics, skills and always diverts the scarce human and material resources, compromising the quality of the routine programmes and activities to concentrate on the emergency," he said.

"Typhoid is an elusive and difficult diagnosis to make, requiring skilled surveillance to detect, clinical skills to diagnose and laboratory resources and expertise to confirm the suspected cases."

Director of epidermiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Portia Manangazira, said Government would introduce a rotavirus vaccine next year to protect children.

Rotavirus is a highly contagious infection that is transmitted by contaminated water, hands or objects.

It causes high fever and serious dehydration among children under the age of five and has no direct treatment.

"We are planing to introduce the vaccine mid next year," she said.

"It requires funding from Government and external sources but we have made great strides."

Hospitals at the moment are relying on the re-hydration method as a supportive measure.

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