ZIMBABWE—In an effort to contain the most recent cholera epidemic, which has been documented in all ten of the nation’s provinces, Zimbabwe has revealed that it has immunized over 2.1 million people against the illness in a single shot reactive program.

People over one year old in 26 high-risk areas throughout seven provinces were the focus of the month-long immunization campaign, which came to a conclusion in Harare on February 22, 2024.

Three batches of the 2 303 248 vaccination doses were delivered to Zimbabwe, with the last batch, consisting of 66 612 doses, arriving on February 17, 2024.

As of March 3, 2024, the nation has documented over 27,055 suspected cases of cholera, over 71 laboratory-confirmed fatalities, and 501 suspected deaths since the start of 2023.

Teams were sent to several provinces to oversee the campaign’s execution, with assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the African Region.

Over 90% of the target districts in the province of Harare, as well as Masvingo, the Midlands, and Mashonaland Central, received the first phase’s completion.

Immunization teams visited houses door-to-door in addition to the permanent immunization stations located in all local health institutions to reduce crowds and stop the disease from spreading.

A vaccination team, consisting of three community health professionals (a social mobilizer, a vacciner, and a recorder), would typically vaccinate 150 individuals every day.

To raise awareness, generate demand for the vaccine, and overcome vaccine hesitancy, a thorough social mobilization effort was launched prior to the immunization campaign. 

The WHO, UNICEF, and other partners assisted the Ministry of Health and Child Care in launching a multisectoral cholera response, which it carried out in conjunction with four other ministries.

It focuses on improving access to adequate water, sanitation, personal and food hygiene, and the distribution of preventative messages to vulnerable and at-risk communities.

It also addresses the treatment of cases and prevention through streamlined coordination of the outbreak response at all levels.

According to Dr. Douglas Mombeshora, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Health and Child Care, the immunization program enhanced other current epidemic management efforts.

Critical outbreak control and prevention efforts, including the provision of clean water, are also being strengthened by the government.

He also pointed out that more than 3 000 boreholes have been drilled in rural areas and more resources and effort will be channelled towards it.

The Acting WHO Representative in Zimbabwe, Jean-Marie Dangou, issued a warning, noting that although oral cholera vaccinations are an essential element of the response to the disease, it’s crucial to emphasize that cholera flourishes in areas with poor or nonexistent access to clean water and sanitation.

To prevent the disease from spreading further, cholera treatment centers have been established in hotspot locations.

Additionally, efforts are being made to improve key response measures, such as infection prevention and control, disease surveillance and response, and improved water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

High rates of morbidity and mortality might arise from dehydration caused by the acute, highly virulent illness that spreads quickly.

Nonetheless, it can be simply treated by quickly administering intravenous fluids or an oral rehydration solution.

In addition to being a health issue, the illness poses a barrier to social and economic growth and calls for a strong multisectoral response.

Long-term cholera prevention requires both economic growth and widespread access to clean water and basic sanitation facilities. 

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