New Zimbabwe (London)

17 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Common Diarrhoea Claims Over 300 Countrywide

ZIMBABWE'S poor water treatment system is reported to have caused the deaths of over 300 citizens countrywide, the majority being urban dwellers and young children.

The state media reports that a total of 328 citizens have died since January this year through common diarrhoea which has been linked to drinking treated but contaminated water.

An additional 190 500 plus have also received treatment for the disease, in a country with fresh memories of the 2008-2009 cholera outbreak that claimed over 4 000 vulnerable citizens.

The fresh diarrhoea cases, which have seen minors of five and below being the most affected, have been attributed to contaminated water by health authorities.

According to the Health ministry's weekly alerts on Epidemic-Prone Diseases, Deaths and Public Health Events, 55 deaths and 34 967 cases of common diarrhoea were recorded in January alone with the

under-fives accounting for 23 of the deaths and 17 956 cases.

Harare - the epicentre of the 2008 cholera outbreak - and the Midlands recorded the highest number of deaths at 14 and 12 respectively.

Mashonaland East registered six deaths, Matabeleland North three, Manicaland seven, Masvingo eight and Mashonaland West four.

Mashonaland Central and Manicaland accounted for the highest number of cases with 4 700 and 4 104 respectively.

In February, 77 deaths and 48 822 cases were recorded countrywide.

Children under the age of five were again the hardest hit, accounting for 30 of the deaths and 24 483 cases.

Harare and Mashonaland had the highest number of deaths at 14 apiece.

In the third week of March, 26 deaths and 13 197 cases were reported with Mashonaland Central and Manicaland registering the highest figures.

In the first two weeks of April, 51 deaths and 15 488 cases were reported with the Midlands topping the list with 29 deaths.

Since the devastating cholera outbreak, blamed on government's failure to consistently pump running water to households, Zimbabwe has been experiencing intermittent outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as typhoid.

Poorly resourced residents who have been confronted with dry taps have been resorting to sourcing for water from the city's unprotected wells while others are transporting the necessity in gallons over distances.

Funeral parlours, service stations, fuel holding depots and food processing plants admitted recently to disposing raw effluent into the country's water sources with local authorities being accused of presiding over virtually dysfunctional waste management systems.

Commenting on the latest incidence of diarrhoea related deaths, Dr Portia Manangazira, director of epidemiology and disease control in the health ministry, said parasites and pathogens were being transmitted into water systems through raw sewage.

She said enforcing proper waste disposal methods would help address water quality.

"Ideally, sewage should be treated first before being disposed of.

"However, because proper procedures are not being followed, pathogens, rotavirus and other parasites end up being too concentrated in the water even before it is processed.

"There is no guarantee the water being distributed will be free of these parasites and bacteria, which can survive chlorine treatment or even invade water during distribution.

"This is the main reason why there are so many diarrhoea cases and deaths, especially among children under the age of five."

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