HARARE – At least 440 children under the age of five have died of diarrhoeal diseases this year, the minister of Health and Child Care has said.
David Parirenyatwa said the country has been experiencing an increased number of diarrhoea cases in recent years.
“These cases are more prevalent in children aged five years and below and are a major cause of deaths in that age group,” the minister told journalists on Tuesday at his offices in Harare.
“This year alone, over 48 000 cases and 440 deaths from common diarrhoea have been reported countrywide. The deaths reported have happened in health facilities with diarrhoea as the cause of death.
“Dysentery has accounted to date 40 756 cases and 59 deaths while typhoid cases reported in 2013 were 1 475.”
Parirenyatwa said his ministry receives between 8 000 and 15 000 diarrhoea cases per week.
“While most cases are emanating from the rural provinces, the cities and towns have also contributed significant cases with Harare, Chitungwiza and Kadoma reporting outbreaks of typhoid and dysentery in early 2013,” he said.
A cholera pandemic claimed more than 4 000 lives five years ago.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently warned in a reported entitled: “Troubled Water: Burst Pipes, Contaminated Wells, and Open Defecation in Zimbabwe’s Capital” that Zimbabwe’s capital was at risk of another cholera outbreak."
HRW said that 70 percent of rural households in Zimbabwe do not have proper sanitation facilities and 40 percent defecate in the open.
Dewa Mavhinga, HRW’s senior researcher, said government’s failure to avail potable water, proper sanitation or safe alternatives has driven the public into using contaminated sources of water and defecating in open spaces.
Parirenyatwa said government was anticipating an increase in cases of diarrhoeal diseases during the rainy season and has prepared a cocktail of remedies to mitigate the outbreak if it occurs.
Among the remedies is the setting up of a National Emergency Preparedness Centre which will be housed at the ministry offices. There will be provincial offices throughout the country.
Health workers in Integrated Diseases Surveillance and Response (IDSR) in Chitungwiza, Kadoma and Harare are set to undergo training.
The ministry of Health will also work in conjecture with the ministries of Water and that of Local Government to improve safe water provision, hygiene and sanitation, the minister said.
“There will be a rotavirus vaccination launch in January as we try and reduce the threat of the diarrhoea,” Parirenyatwa said.