Experts give COVID-19 warning

Credit: Newsday By Vanessa Gonye and Lorraine Muromo | May. 4, 2023

HEALTH experts have urged COVID-19 caution ahead of schools opening next week and the approaching winter.

Speaking to NewsDay on Tuesday, chief coordinator of the COVID-19 taskforce in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Agnes Mahomva said COVID-19 was the new normal.



“We really urge citizens to take precautions seriously so as to ensure the country does not get into a crisis again,” Mahomva said.

“As we approach winter there is need to be extra careful and to religiously follow all preventive measures.”

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara expressed hope that the situation this year would be similar to last year’s where there were not many casualties.



“However, there is always need for caution and continuous need for practising good hygiene as this not only protects us from COVID-19 but also protects us from other viral respiratory infections and other diarrhoeal conditions like typhoid and cholera,” he said.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said there was need to limit the further spread of COVID-19 in schools by having all eligible students vaccinated.

“The standard operating procedures related to the reopening of schools should be supported with adequate resources for the safe operation of schools in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic and cholera outbreak,” Rusike said.

“We hope that the government is taking all the essential practical measures for the protection, safety, health and well-being of children, staff and the wider school communities as the country is facing the double blow pandemic considering the rise of cholera cases amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”



During Tuesday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, government said cumulative COVID-19 cases as at April 29, 2023 stood at 264 683, with 258 914 recoveries and 5 686 deaths. There were 83 active cases, and no deaths were recorded during the week under review. There were 15 new hospital admissions, compared to the 14 recorded the previous week, with five being in intensive care.

Health experts fret over cholera resurgence

Credits: Newsday By Vanessa Gonye | Apr. 10, 2023

HEALTH experts have expressed concern over the resurgence in cholera cases, which they blame on poor sanitation and a lack of long-term planning for water supplies in urban areas.

Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike said cholera will continue to wreak havoc until there is a long-term plan on water sanitation and hygiene intervention.

“Prolonged water cuts in most urban areas are leading to use of unsafe alternatives such as unprotected shallow wells and faecal matter-contaminated boreholes. Local government earmarks revenue for waste collection, this should not be reallocated to other spending.  Residents should be brought into monitoring waste dumping. Residents and businesses can provide initial support with clean-up campaigns but routine waste collection, water treatment services and more reliable provisioning need to be improved as a public health priority,” Rusike said.

“The mainstay of prevention of cholera is the provision of safe water, adequate sanitation, good personal hygiene, case management, surveillance and community mobilisation. Cholera vaccination may be used to complement primary measures,” he said.

Cholera, a diarrheal infectious disease continues to cause high morbidity and mortality in Zimbabwe.

Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

Health policy specialist Tinashe Mundawarara said more investment is needed to deal with cholera.

“Investments are needed to detect, prevent, control and monitor cholera.  This is further compounded by the fact that cholera is now a protracted epidemic in this country. I am not sure if government has a cost-effective strategy for border screening given that it is resource intensive,” he said.

The country is currently experiencing a new wave of cholera infections, which emanated from Chegutu and has spread across the country, bringing to 17 new cholera hotspots.

Previously, there were only four hotspots.

The new cholera hotspots are Buhera, Chegutu, Chikomba, Chimanimani, Chipinge, Chitungwiza, Chiredzi, Harare, Gokwe North, Marondera, Mazowe, Shamva, Mutare, Murehwa, Mwenezi, Seke and Wedza.

Health expert Josephat Chiripanyanga said: “We encourage people to follow guidelines for cholera prevention so as to ensure that we limit the occurrence of cholera as much as possible. There is a need to practise proper waste (human included) disposal especially in the rural areas to reduce or prevent it from spreading. We all know the adverse effects of cholera and the country has had two serious outbreaks with devastating outcomes.  It will be equally bad if we lag behind on prevention.”

As of Thursday last week, there were a cumulative 382 suspected cholera cases, two laboratory-confirmed deaths, five suspected cholera deaths and 71 laboratory-confirmed cases reported.

Health experts have warned that if no action is taken, the cholera outbreak could lead to more fatalities.



CONCERN OVER HYPERTENSION . . . prevalence estimated at about 30 percent of population

Credits: H-metro by Tanaka Mahanya 07 April, 2023

ZIMBABWE is experiencing a rise in non-communicable diseases with hypertension now top of the list.

The country joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Health Day.

It will be held under the theme ‘‘Health for All’’.

The theme resonates well with the growing global call for Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which seeks to ensure that people have access to the healthcare they need, without suffering financial hardships.

The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has called on the Government to ensure that health services are available, accessible and affordable to every citizen of Zimbabwe.

In a statement, CWGH executive director, Itai Rusike, said the country was experiencing a rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

“Rapid, unplanned, unregulated urbanisation and changes in lifestyles as people migrate from rural to urban areas are causing an increase in the risk factors that cause NCDs and conditions such as injuries, disabilities and substance abuse.

“The prevalence of hypertension is estimated at about 30 percent of the total population, which is higher than HIV, tuberculosis and diabetes.

“Addressing the burden of non-communicable diseases constitutes an integral part of achieving good health and well-being.”

Rusike said targets had been set to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment by one-third by 2030.

“The country also suffers a high burden of cancer with the cervical cancer burden being within the top five in the world. “Treatment costs for all cancers remain very high, inconsistent and unaffordable for most people.”

Cholera: Experts call for access to clean water

Credits: Newsday By Lorraine Muromo and Vanessa Gonye | Mar. 30, 2023

health experts have urged government to ensure citizens have access to clean potable water to stop the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera.

The country has witnessed a number of cholera cases with suspected cases in 10 provinces numbering 267, while 209 recoveries and two deaths were recorded. Cabinet on Tuesday approved a budget of US$24 168 353 for cholera preparedness and response plan.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said to effectively deal with cholera, government should deal with fundamental public health issues like access to water.

“The current cholera outbreak is occurring in the context of frequent water and power cuts, and a breakdown of rubbish collection. Advice to boil water is difficult to follow during water and power cuts. The situation on the ground indicates that while water and sanitation infrastructure exists, these are old and malfunctioning and tariff structures are needed to protect poor households’ access,” Rusike said.

He said unsafe environments continued to be a health threat, particularly for poor households and should be more focused on high-density suburbs and rural areas, where significant gaps remain in terms of access to safe water and sanitation.

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe president Johannes Marisa said while government’s US$24 million pledge towards fighting cholera was welcome, water and sanitation issues should be prioritised.

“It’s needless to fight symptoms when the predisposing factors are dominant, water and sanitation should be robust and up to standard if we are going to contain cholera. Monitoring and surveillance is also important, as well as education on cholera and its symptoms.”


Zim cholera cases rise to 98

Credits: Newsday By Vanessa Gonye | Mar. 17, 2023

ZIMBABWE recorded 31 new suspected cholera cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 98, with health experts, calling on local authorities to improve access to water and sanitation to avert a national disaster.

In a daily situation report on Wednesday, the Health and Child Care ministry said there was one casualty, while three of the suspected cases tested positive to the diarrhoeal disease on the day.

“The 31 new suspected cholera cases and 3 laboratory confirmed cases were reported today (Wednmesday). These were reported from Centenary (15), Beitbridge (11), Chegutu (4) and Chivi (1),” the ministry said.

“Fourteen of the suspected cases and one suspected death brought in dead (BID) were Mozambican nationals from Kadunje Village who sought treatment at Chiwenga Clinic, Centenary district, Mashonaland Central province, bordering Mozambique.”

The first two cholera case were recorded in Chegutu last month.

“As of 15 March 2023, one case is hospitalised at Chivi District Hospital Cholera Treatment Unit (CTU), Masvingo province. Zimbabwe has 98 suspected cholera cases, eight confirmed cases, 97 recoveries and one death,” the ministry said.

The country’s worst cholera outbreak occurred in 2008, which left more than 4 000 dead and another 40 000 infected.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said recurrent cholera outbreaks exposed lack of maintenance of the country’s water and sewer reticulation infrastructure.

“Inadequate access to water and sanitation infrastructure is a major source of health challenges and disease outbreaks such as cholera,” Rusike said.

“The aging and unrepaired sewer systems, waste put in sewers due to poor waste collection, illegal waste dumps, overflowing septic tanks and frequent water and power cuts are also causative factors. Most sewerage reticulation systems and treatment works are in a state of disrepair, raising the risk of diarrhoeal diseases including cholera.”

Tinashe Mundawarara, a health policy specialist said Zimbabwe needs to improve its access to water and sanitation.

“From a policy perspective, our health system will always be judged on its responsiveness, that is, will the Ministry of Health be able to stop the spread and at the same time ensure adequate health care provision for those with immediate need? The next few days will be critical on these two issues and funding will be an urgent need,” Mundawarara said.



More men dying than women: ZimStat

Credits: Newsday By Priveledge Gumbodete | Mar. 15, 2023

ZIMBABWEAN men are dying more than women, latest statistics from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) have revealed.

The report, based on the 2022 population and housing census, shows that 120 070 deaths were recorded during the census with 53,6% of the dead being men and 46,4% being women.

Last year, ZimStat preliminary national census results revealed that females constitute the majority of the population, numbering 7 889 421 or 52%, compared to the male population of 7 289 588 (48%).

This was also followed by another set of results showing that life expectancy for females now stands at 68 years compared to male life expectancy which is 61,2 years.

“A total of 120 070 deaths were recorded during the census. Male deaths constituted 53,6% of the total deaths recorded during the census. Throughout all age groups, males had higher mortality rates compared to females,” the report read.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said health-seeking behaviour among men is poor compared to women.

Rusike said clients at health centres are often women and children less than five years.

“There is a particular focus in primary healthcare on women and children due to their vulnerability and the fact that their ill-health affects the wider community. Apart from the general inputs that all people need for health, women also need services to support safe reproductive health, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of infections such as HIV, child delivery and care, including nutrition during pregnancy,” Rusike said.

“The spread of health information, improvement of nutrition, safe living and community environments are key to disease prevention amongst men. Prevention and management of common diseases also depends on early detection and treatment. We are also aware that unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking cigarettes and alcohol abuse are a lot more prevalent in men compared to women.”

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara said quantitative research is needed to establish why more men were dying than women.

Matara said women practice self-care while men are reckless.

“This is why most men died during the census period compared to women.”

Zimstats data also showed that 78 384 deaths constituting 64,7% were registered while unregistered deaths constituted 30,3% and 5,0% had an unknown status.


Concerns over amendments to the Health Services Act.

Credit : Newsday

THERE are fears that the recently signed Health Service Amendment Act could trample on the rights of health workers.

Speaking to NewsDay, Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike  said the Act is neither democratic nor consultative.

He said workers in the public health sector  are now disadvantaged in several ways, since now they cannot strike and bargain collectively.

“It is unfortunate that health workers are caught in the middle of a system that is slow to respond to their needs and ethical pressures not to take collective job action,” Rusike said.

“The unpopular Health Services Act will most likely exacerbate the exodus of health workers from the country thereby putting extra pressure on those who will remain on their jobs.”

He urged government to address the conditions of service for health workers to plug the brain drain.

While there are no exact statistics on the number of health professionals who left the country in 2021, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association put the figure at just over 2000.

Last year, government announced plans to ban doctors and nurses from embarking on job action lasting more than three days under new proposed amendments to the Health Services Act.