Neglected Zimbabwe battles cholera

Outstretched hands reach out for limited water supply from tap

The BBC has reported that an emergency has been declared in Zimbabwe, with the country struggling with its worst outbreak of cholera in a decade, which has so far killed at least 28 people. Public gatherings in the capital, Harare, have been banned. The two worst affected areas are Glen View and Budiriro, which are both poor and overcrowded.

The disease can kill within hours if left untreated – it is an acute diarrhoeal disease that kills up to 143,000 people per year. Although most people infected with cholera have no or mild symptoms and can be successfully treated with an oral rehydration solution, severe cases need swift treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Access to safe water and sanitation is key to controlling the transmission of the disease.

According to the BBC, Health Minister Moyo blames the opposition-run city council for the crisis, asserting that blocked pipes were reported months ago but never fixed. “As the health ministry we will not allow the city to sit on their laurels,” he said.

The BBC has reported that the problem runs even deeper, with mounds of refuse piling up around most of Harare and unpredictable water supplies that have forced citizens to dig their own shallow wells and boreholes, many of which have tested positive for cholera. With the water infrastructure having been left to decay for decades, pipes are cracking and rotting.

The new Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has created an emergency crowdfunding campaign to fight the disease. However, some say that this stop-gap measure is an admission of failure from a government which they accuse of having misplaced priorities.