At least 25 people have died and nearly 4,000 diagnosed with cholera amid a growing outbreak in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, local media reported Friday.
At a press conference Thursday, Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo revealed the government confirmed at least 700 new cases overnight between Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the number to 3,766. The government has declared the outbreak a state of emergency and has prohibited all types of public gatherings in an effort to control the further spread of the disease.
“The number of cases has continued to soar,” Moyo said. “Yesterday (Wednesday), we had 3,067 and today (Thursday) it has gone up by 699 cases.”
“Death is now at 25. On Tuesday, we were at 21; so the number of deaths is at four, having three deaths at Beatrice infectious diseases hospital and 1 death from Glen View polyclinic,” he added.
Moyo, who serves in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recently formed government, urged Zimbabweans to work together to prevent the disease spreading outside of Harare as political parties continue to blame each other for the epidemic.
“We are not blaming each other. This is not a blame game. Let’s work together and be on top of the situation,” he said. “Sanitation is being taken care of; there is need for further support to the local councils.”
Figures within the ruling Zanu PF party are blaming the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MFD) for the outbreak, given that they are in charge of Harare City Council which they claim have reportedly failed to provide clean water and collecting garbage regularly.
However, politicians within MFD blame Zanu PF for the overall weakness of the country’s economy. Zanu PF has ruled Zimbabwe since Robert Mugabe took over in 1980, rapidly expropriating properties and causing both a currency collapse and shortages in food and basic goods for average citizens.
Cholera outbreaks are rare in developed countries but are frequent occurrences in many countries in parts of Africa, especially those with inadequate water sanitation. The current outbreak has brought back dark memories of 2008, when over 4,000 people died in one of the worst cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe’s history.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has confirmed it is helping the Zimbabwean government to deploy more resources to affected areas to help reduce the outbreak’s impact.
“We have also alerted our regional offices and headquarters because we know this is a very serious issue, which will need quite huge investments to contain the outbreak,” UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Mohamed Ayoya said. “We are working very hard to help the government.”