Saturday, February 21, 2009

New report on Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak from MSF

Medecins Sans Frontiers has an extensive report on the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. The organization has so far treated 45,000 people, but with only 500 workers in the country it's not enough to treat all of them. Our snippet of the report comes from the introduction explaining the growing humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

“It is a constant challenge to keep up with increasing
patient numbers. We are running out of ward space
and beds for the patients.” - MSF staff

The cholera epidemic, which started in August 2008
has been unprecedented in scale for Zimbabwe and
still continues today. MSF has treated more than
45,000 cholera patients during this time – which
represents approximately 75% of all cholera cases
since the outbreak began. The level of MSF’s
response has been necessitated by the scale of the
epidemic and the inability of local health structures to

Cases have been found in all provinces. More than
500 MSF staff members are presently working to
identify new cases and to treat patients in need of
care. As of early February 2009, the focus of the
outbreak had shifted from the cities to rural areas,
where access to health care is particularly limited,
but the number of cases in some urban areas are still
significant. The epidemic is far from under control. In
the first week of February 2009, 4,000 new cases
were treated in MSF supported structures alone.

The reasons for the outbreak are clear: lack of
access to clean water, burst and blocked sewage
systems, and uncollected refuse overflowing in the
streets, all clear symptoms of the breakdown in
infrastructure resulting from Zimbabwe's political and
economic meltdown.

Although MSF has been able to respond to the
outbreak on a massive scale – delays and restrictions
have been encountered. In December, when the
number of cholera patients in Harare had reached a
peak with close to 2,000 admissions a week, it took
weeks to get permission to open a second empty
ward in Harare’s Infectious Disease Hospital to
increase the capacity for cholera treatment.

No comments: