Zimbabwe’s Current Battle: Cholera

Written by: Chandrea Baster

In most industrialized and developed countries, the spread of bacterial infections such as Cholera are easily kept under control. Proper antibiotics and resources are often provided to contain diseases that are spread easily, infecting other individuals in the general vicinity. However, there are many countries that do not have the luxury of being equipped to handle such dangerous outbreaks – countries such as Zimbabwe in Africa are grossly ill-equipped to handle such eruptions of infectious diseases. 

Cholera is an extremely contagious bacterial infection that can easily be spread through drinking contaminated water and having close contact with infected individuals. Therefore, Cholera thrives in areas where there is improper access to clean drinking water, inadequate hygiene, and improper living environments. If not treated immediately, Cholera has the ability to kill an individual within the first 24 hours after symptoms such as diarrhea and dehydration begin.

As of September 6th, Zimbabwe has been dealing with an enormous outbreak of Cholera. The country has not seen anything like this since their last outbreak in 2008, during which more than 4,000 people died. At the time, it was considered one of the worst outbreaks to ever hit the country. With nearly 100,000 people infected in 2008, Zimbabwe vowed to improve their water and sewage systems through preventative programs so that an outbreak like the one occurring now would not happen again. 

However, Zimbabwe unfortunately has an array of different problems that they need to amend, which has made it extremely difficult to work solely on fixing their water irrigation systems. Thus, the country is now dealing with approximately 3,000 newly infected individuals. Majority of the outbreak has been contained to the capital city of Harare, where the government has declared a State of Emergency. However, a recent report stated that 5 out of 10 provinces in Zimbabwe have positive reports of Cholera. Since the outbreak was first reported, officials in Zimbabwe have released information regarding the current strand of Cholera plaguing Harare, which is said to be multi-drug resistant, making battling the infection particularly difficult. Although treating Cholera is not impossible, the government has had to deal with multiple setbacks which has hindered the government’s ability to help treat those already infected. In order to help control this outbreak, the government has had to submit requests for other antibiotics, a hurdle that has been particularly difficult due to both cost and logistical issues. 

While the World Health Organization, UNICEF and many NGO’s have been tirelessly working to contain the spread of the disease and save those already infected through rehydration solutions and a variety of fluids and antibiotics, their work has not been fool-proof. As of Sunday, September 16th, 28 people have died in Zimbabwe from Cholera since the outbreak first occurred a little over a week ago.

It is hard to fathom that in 2018, individuals are still dying from a disease that should be eradicated worldwide. Citizens in Zimbabwe have every right to have proper access to water and proper living areas, however, many areas still are not equipped with such basic necessities. 

Once this outbreak is contained and controlled, the government of Zimbabwe has the obligation to put their full effort towards creating an overall safer living environment. An outbreak of this size will undoubtedly claim more lives, something that is not permissible in this day and age. Zimbabwe’s government has received a substantial amount of backlash for not focusing their efforts on this problem in the years prior to this incident. However long it takes, it is of uttermost importance that the government focuses on fixing the situation in Zimbabwe so that the citizens do not have to deal with a crisis like this again.