Hwange, a coal mining town, faces a dire situation as a cholera outbreak spreads. Over 30 cases and two deaths have been reported, attributed largely to the lack of clean running water and dependence on communal toilets. These inadequate sanitation and hygiene conditions create fertile ground for the waterborne bacterial disease to thrive.
Cumulative cases in Matabeleland North now stand at 37. Last week, there were 11 cases, with five originating from Hwange and six from Binga and Umguza districts, Chronicle has revealed.
In Hwange urban, 16 new suspected cases have been reported, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 37, with two suspected deaths.
Health authorities are particularly concerned about the rising number of diarrhoea cases in Hwange District, including the popular tourist destination of Victoria Falls.
It is important to note that there are currently no reported cases of cholera in Victoria Falls. All suspected and confirmed cases are restricted to Hwange town, where residents rely on communal toilets with no running water. To flush these toilets, residents must use buckets.
In response to the outbreak, the Ministry of Health and Child Care is urging the improvement of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (Wash) facilities in the affected areas in order to prevent the further spread of the disease.
“The cases are in Hwange and the two deaths presented symptoms. Last week a provincial team visited Hwange to confirm the outbreak and there is a need to intensify Wash programmes, especially in areas like Number 2 and Number 3.
“The main driver so far is use of communal toilets, which have no water,” Matabeleland North provincial epidemiological and disease control officer, Moyo, said.
According to Moyo, the number of cholera cases is increasing, but the outbreak can still be contained if people maintain proper hygiene practices. Health officials have been conducting awareness campaigns in affected areas.
To manage the cases, the province has established two cholera treatment centers: Mkhosana Clinic in Victoria Falls and Hwange Colliery Hospital in Hwange. These centers are responsible for providing care to all patients.
Moyo has also directed all seven districts to establish their own cholera treatment centers, even if some districts have not yet reported any cases.
He called on supporting departments to enforce measures on the ground to prevent the spread of the disease and further fatalities. In Hwange, the local authority has taken preventive actions, such as removing street vendors, especially those selling food and clothes.
Residents of Victoria Falls have requested government intervention to stop Zambian street vendors from freely trading in the city, as they pose a risk of spreading cholera. However, no action has been taken yet.
Concerns have been raised by Fungayi Musinami, the Hwange District Medical Officer, about the increasing cases of diarrhea. She urges the public to maintain high standards of hygiene.