Thursday, December 18, 2008

A second cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe

Medecins Sans Frontieres says that there is now a second outbreak of cholera in Zimbabwe. Our snippet comes from the MSF press release.

A second cholera outbreak has hit Chegutu, a town 100 km south of Harare, where more than 100 people have died since the first cases appeared on 24 November.

MSF arrived in Chegutu, which has a population of 55,000, on 12 December after being told that day of the emergency. The scene MSF found at the town’s small government cholera treatment centre (CTC) was grim. 74 people were said to have died amongst 650 registered cases.

Patients, dead and alive, were lying on the floor, sanitation services were non-existent and there was no water or food to be found. “The situation was absolute chaos,” says Luis Maria Tello, the MSF Emergency Team Medical Coordinator. “There were no beds and dead people were lying everywhere. People were dying of thirst because there was no water.” The disposal of the dead was one of the first priorities set by the emergency team and MSF was able to carry out disinfection and disposal of the corpses within a day.

The sources of the outbreak are believed to have been discovered. Government authorities found many of the sick had used water from broken pipes that had been vandalized by others trying to access it. Chegutu has been experiencing water cuts for the past seven months, according to residents. Since there are also many burst sewage pipes in the town, it is believed that sewage fairly easily contaminated these drinking sources.

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