Zimbabwe Battles Fresh Cholera Outbreak Amidst Institutional and Governance Challenges-
Zimbabwe finds itself grappling with a resurgence of cholera, shining a harsh spotlight on the nation’s institutional and governance hurdles. As of Tuesday, the country has reported 61 suspected cases, including four confirmed cholera cases and one suspected death, with the majority concentrated in Buhera district, the epicenter of this outbreak.
The situation has taken a concerning turn, with 40 new suspected cholera cases and another laboratory-confirmed infection reported just yesterday. Buhera remains severely affected, with 33 cases, along with Chipinge, Zaka, and Mutare contributing to the alarming rise in cases.
Harare, the nation’s capital, has also been affected, with five confirmed cases scattered across different zones. Harare City Council acknowledged the connection between the cases and Buhera, suggesting the possibility of local transmission.
Frustrated residents of Harare have expressed their dissatisfaction with the city’s management, citing a lack of basic services such as garbage collection and clean water provision as contributing factors to the outbreak. They argue that a collapsing service delivery system has left the city vulnerable to public health crises.
One resident, Mrs. Shupikai Thompson, pointed out the disconnect between policy-making and implementation within the City of Harare, while Ms. Prudence Rukondo criticized the City Council for failing to provide clean potable water. Many residents believe that councillors prioritize their interests over public welfare.
Inadequate refuse collection and frequent sewerage blockages in high-density areas are aggravating factors in the spread of cholera. Critics argue that the council’s allocation of resources does not prioritize health delivery and environmental conservation.
Cholera, a waterborne disease, spreads through contaminated drinking water and food. Zimbabwe has a history of cholera outbreaks, with the worst occurring in 2008 and another major outbreak in 2018. The current outbreak began in February, resulting in 4,609 suspected cases and 935 confirmed cases. The good news is the impressive recovery rate of 4,401, although there have been 30 confirmed deaths and 100 suspected deaths.
A policy research working paper commissioned by the World Bank identified sanitation risk, poverty, sewer burst density, and imported cases as cholera risk factors. Burst sewer systems and water scarcity, exacerbated by opposition council inefficiencies, have affected many Harare suburbs, exposing residents to preventable diseases.
Local authorities are constitutionally obligated to provide safe drinking water, a duty that some argue has not been upheld. Harare City’s deputy mayor, Clr Kudzai Kadzombe, asserts that the council is working to increase water production and ensure that the infectious disease hospital is prepared for any cases that may arise.
While urban areas are affected, concerns have arisen regarding the outbreak’s spread to rural areas like Buhera and Zaka. In response, Zaka District has imposed restrictions on gatherings and markets. Health and Child Care Minister Dr. Douglas Mombeshora acknowledges the need for improved water and sanitation services, especially in urban areas, emphasizing the importance of providing safe drinking water to the population.
As Zimbabwe confronts this fresh cholera outbreak, there is a pressing need for coordinated efforts from all levels of government, improved infrastructure, and transparent governance to prevent future public health crises. The nation stands at a critical crossroads, where the health and well-being of its citizens hang in the balance.- state media