12 September 2018

Zimbabwe: Cholera - Nothing Learned From 2008 Crisis, Says Global Rights

Photo: Innocent Makawa/The Herald
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa is briefed by Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, centre, while Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima looks on during a tour at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital in Mbare, Harare.

IT'S unacceptable that people are still dying from preventable diseases such as cholera in 2018, suggesting that Zimbabwean authorities did not learn anything from a similar crisis ten years ago which left more than 4,000 dead.

This was said by global rights group Amnesty International as the death toll from the latest cholera outbreak reached 21 countrywide.

"It is appalling that in 2018, people are still dying of such a preventable disease," said Jessica Pwiti, Amnesty International Zimbabwe's Executive Director.

"The current cholera epidemic is a terrible consequence of Zimbabwe's failure to invest in and manage both its basic water and sanitation infrastructure and its health care system."

She added; "Given what happened in 2008, the government should have been better prepared.

"But no lessons were learned from the 2008 epidemic, and the outbreak and deaths we're seeing now is symptomatic of a still-broken sanitation infrastructure and poor sewer management, worsened by shortages of drugs and medical supplies."

The 2008 crisis claimed more than 4,300 lives and was blamed on the lack of a safe drinking water supply as well as broken-down sanitation systems that left many people surrounded by flowing raw sewage near their homes.

The current outbreak was initially reported in Gweru last month and has since spread to other parts of the country including Harare where more than 15 people have been confirmed dead.

Authorities say there are more than 3,000 suspected cases of cholera with some 45 confirmed.

The outbreak represents the first serious public health emergency for President Emmerson Mnangagwa following his disputed election at the end of July.

"The newly-elected government must learn from its predecessor's mistakes and take action that stops people dying from preventable diseases," said Amnesty's Jessica Pwiti.

"The authorities must invest in proper sanitation and health infrastructure and ensure universal access to health care.

"If Zimbabwe lacks the resources to address these issues it can, and is obliged under international law to do so, request assistance.

"As the government itself has now admitted, this is a national disaster which requires an immediate and effective response."

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