Zimbabwe: 'Eight Children Die From Diarrhoea Every Week'

UP to eight children are dying weekly as a result of diarrhoea, the Deputy Minister of Health, Paul Chimedza told the National Assembly last Wednesday.

Responding to Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya's question on the recent death of three children after they had taken bilharzia drugs, Chimedza said diarrheal deaths were becoming prevalent in the country.

He said it has now been established that two of the three children died from diarrhoea which had nothing to do with bilharzia drugs. The cause of death for the third child could not be established as he was buried before a post-mortem could be conducted.

"If you go to my statistics of deaths, every week we will have six to eight children dying because of diarrhoea which has nothing to do with drugs," Chimedza said.

Three children, aged between five and eight, recently died in Harare and Redcliff after taking the bilharzia drug. The children were said to have started vomiting and developed diarrhoea the same day they had taken the medication.

Chimedza said the government's decision to freeze posts was making it difficult for his ministry to function smoothly.

"The problem we have at the moment is there is a government freeze on posts. At the moment the nurse to patient ratio in some areas is about one to 15 and the ideal is one to four," he said.

Chimedza urged parliamentarians to make sure that government unfroze the posts.

"We have an acute shortage of nurses in the hospitals. It is our desire to put a nurse or nurses that are adequate to look after our people in each and every health centre including those farm houses that we have converted to clinics," he said.

Chimedza said the ministry was currently engaging the Finance ministry on the issue.

He said most nurses go "into the streets" after college and losing the skills that they got after using the government's resources.

"They lose the skill after three years, they cannot be nurses anymore. They will need to be retrained," Chimedza said, "So it's really something that as a ministry we are very worried about. We really want to have all nurses' posts unfrozen as a matter of urgency for the benefit of this nation."

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