Zim issues new malaria alert

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HARARE – Zimbabwe’s stone-broke government is finding it increasingly difficult to contain disease outbreaks in the country, with health officials reporting 89 000 new cases of malaria and 151 malaria-related deaths in the past two months alone.


This comes as the ministry of Health and Child Care has issued a fresh cholera alert in Manicaland and Masvingo, where two people have so far succumbed to the disease which killed more than 4 000 people at the height of Zimbabwe’s political and economic turmoil in 2008.


At the same time, Health ministry malaria programme manager, Joseph Mberikunashe, told the Daily News yesterday that the recent heavy rains had seen a spike in malaria cases, while floods had also made it difficult to access certain affected areas around the country.


“The rainfall has seen an increase in malaria cases. In the first nine weeks of this year, we recorded 151 deaths and 89 261 malaria cases.


“As the transmission of malaria depends on humidity, the recent heavy rains mean that there will be more breeding ground for malaria, and many communities are now exposed to the disease, including artisanal miners who sleep in the open,” he said.


The worst-affected areas are the low-lying regions of the country which include parts of Chiredzi, Chipinge, Mutare, Mutasa, Goromonzi, Centenary, Uzumba, Maramba Pfungwe, Bindura and Beitbridge.


This week, the Health ministry issued a cholera alert after two people died, while two others were treated for the disease in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces respectively.


The highly-communicable disease is believed to have spread from neighbouring Mozambique, where a cholera epidemic has infected more than 1 000 people in the aftermath of Cyclone Dineo.


Zimbabwe’s public health sector has lurched from one crisis to the other over the past two decades, as the country’s stone-broke government struggles to pay workers and stock hospitals.


Recently, health services were crippled when doctors and nurses staged a national strike, pressing for improved working conditions.


Most public hospitals are collapsing under the weight of a myriad problems, including the shortage of drugs and continued under-funding by the government.


The country’s major hospitals recently warned that they were running low on the supply of a major drug used during surgical operations — after major drug supplier, GSK, pulled out of the Zimbabwean market last year.


Last week, hospitals were hit by shortages of the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which prevents infants from contracting tuberculosis (TB).


In 2016, major referral hospitals also had to suspend many services as a result of the shortage of drugs, including painkillers — exposing how much things have fallen apart in the country since the early 2000s.


United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Harare Central Hospital were among the major health facilities that had to suspend normal services as a result of drug shortages, including pethidine — a synthetic compound used as a painkiller, especially for women in labour and during Caesarean operations.

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