Mayor Ian Makone emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “We have declared a state of emergency because of cholera.” The authorities are grappling with the rapid spread of the outbreak, prompting a call for aid. However, the assistance received so far is deemed insufficient, raising concerns about the city’s ability to manage the crisis effectively.
Health authorities, particularly the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), have reported challenges in handling the surge in admissions. Factors contributing to the struggle include a shortage of health workers and inadequate supplies to halt the transmission of the disease. The plea for assistance underscores the critical need for resources to combat the outbreak.
The epicentre of the outbreak is identified as Kuwadzana, a high-density suburb in Harare, responsible for nearly half of the reported cases. Cholera, caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, is primarily spread through contaminated food and water. The situation is reminiscent of the 2008 outbreak, which resulted in over 4,000 deaths and prompted a historic power-sharing deal.
Zimbabwe has faced recurring challenges with cholera in recent months, compounded by a lack of access to clean water. The severity of the current outbreak has drawn parallels to the crisis in 2008. The previous epidemic, causing widespread suffering and death, led to significant political developments, including a power-sharing agreement between then-President Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
As of Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported 7,398 suspected cases, 50 confirmed deaths, and 109 hospitalizations. The health minister, in response to the crisis, announced measures such as the removal of street food vendors and the transportation of safe water. The International Federation of the Red Cross warns of the disease’s rapid spread, affecting numerous districts and provinces.
The IFRC highlights the widespread geographical impact, affecting 45 out of 62 districts and all 10 provinces in Zimbabwe. There are concerns that the outbreak could extend beyond the country’s borders, with neighboring nations like Malawi, South Africa, and Mozambique having experienced cholera outbreaks in the past.
As Zimbabwe grapples with this escalating health crisis, the urgent call for assistance emphasizes the need for a coordinated and swift response to mitigate the impact of the cholera outbreak in Harare.