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WHO delivers critical supplies to strengthen cholera response in Zimbabwe

WHO delivers critical supplies to strengthen cholera response in Zimbabwe

ZIMBABWE – The World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered a major consignment of critical supplies totaling 22 metric tonnes in a pivotal move to strengthen cholera response efforts in Zimbabwe.

This timely contribution highlights the WHO’s unwavering commitment to protecting public health and reducing the effects of the deadly cholera outbreak.

The handover event was attended by dignitaries, including Health and Child Care Minister Dr. Douglas Mombeshora, WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Representative to Zimbabwe Professor Jean-Marie Dangou, and other top government officials and WHO workers.

Cholera, a severe intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, spreads through contaminated food and water.

Outbreaks are more likely to occur in areas with a shortage of clean water and sanitation.

The first cholera outbreak in 2023 began on February 12, 2023, in Chegutu, Mashonaland West Province.

As of November 7, 2023, Zimbabwe had registered 6,685 suspected cholera cases and 136 suspected deaths.

In June 2023, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) sought CHF 464,595 from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Disaster Reaction Emergency Fund3 to combat the cholera outbreak, demonstrating a favorable reaction in the targeted districts.

However, the outbreak expanded to additional districts, prompting the ZMRC to change the existing situation to a “worst-case scenario” in its scenario planning.

Consequently, the IFRC has been asked to launch an emergency appeal for CHF 3 million (US$3.408 million) to enable the ZRCS to ramp up their response, targeting 550,455 individuals throughout the most affected and vulnerable regions and their communities.

The shipment includes cholera kits, medical supplies, and personal protective equipment to aid in the ongoing battle against cholera.

Researchers estimate that there are between 1.3 and 4.0 million cases of cholera each year, with 21,000 to 143,000 fatalities globally due to cholera.

In Zimbabwe, communities lack awareness about illness prevention and supporting affected individuals with oral rehydration therapy, leading to widespread stigmatization.

The community healthcare system, responsible for ensuring adherence to water, sanitation, and hygiene practices, is overwhelmed.

To address this, there is a need to mobilize and train more volunteers to support task shifting from medical personnel to volunteers, along with increasing awareness of risks and treatment.

These resources have the potential to significantly improve healthcare facilities’ ability to manage and treat cholera patients.

The cholera supplies were supported by the Health Resilience Fund, a pool of funds from the European Union, the Embassy of Ireland, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, and UK Aid.

The provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to preventing and controlling the transmission of cholera and other waterborne diseases.

Additionally, the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s capacity has been strained due to a high number of admissions, a shortage of personnel resources, and a lack of cholera supplies, particularly disinfection liquids.

The supplies provided by WHO will enable healthcare staff to provide timely and effective treatment, potentially saving many lives.

Dr. Moeti expressed gratitude to contributors and underlined the importance of tackling the fundamental causes of cholera epidemics.

He also emphasized the need to focus on improving access to clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene, extensive awareness-raising, community participation, and boosting early warning surveillance.

Zimbabwe has been dealing with a cholera outbreak exacerbated by problems with water supply, sanitation, and hygiene, aggravated by climate change-induced prolonged dry seasons.

The scarcity of oral cholera vaccinations on a global scale has hindered response efforts.

Dr. Mombeshora, in accepting the donation, emphasized the impact on key response gaps and acknowledged the decrease in instances, but underscored the necessity for ongoing efforts.

The Permanent Secretary, Dr. Aspect Maunganidze, praised the WHO’s consultative approach in engaging the Ministry prior to procurement, ensuring a targeted response to the population’s actual requirements.

WHO’s support goes beyond emergency aid to long-term capacity building, actively participating in healthcare worker training, surveillance system building, and public awareness campaigns.

This shipment not only serves as a practical response to the current situation but also demonstrates WHO’s consistent commitment to global public health.

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