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Residents in panic as Gweru “slides” back into Cholera disaster

Sandra Maricho

GWERU – Authorities in Zimbabwe’s third largest city, Gweru, have quelled fears of a new outbreak of water-borne diseases like Cholera and Typhoid, following social media claims that have sent residents into panic.

The Midlands capita has been gripped by fresh fears of a quick slide back into the yesteryear disasters of the two diseases, which claimed dozens of lives.

This follows distress calls by residents in the city’s densely populated suburb of Mkoba, home to an estimated 150,000 population and the eyeball and epicentre of previous outbreaks of the water-borne diseases.

“I saw two ambulances taking turns to ferry people who fell ill with signs of Cholera or Typhoid three houses from my lodging here in Kwekwe. From the average medical knowledge that we all have here, we believe we may face another outbreak,” said a resident in the area.

A cumulative total of 1,506 suspected cases of typhoid were reported in Gweru during winter last year, six of which were were confirmed. By the beginning of summer, 11 people had died of the disease.

Making matters worse is the authorities’ seeming choice to keep a tight lid on the fears of a potential outbreak.

Gweru city council Director of Health, Samson Sekenhamo, refuted as false the fears, which have culminated in social media claims of another typhoid outbreak in the high density suburb of Mkoba.

His combative stance came after a spiral of WhatsApp messages from panicking residents saying several people from Mkoba 19 showing symptoms of cholera or typhoid had been ferried to hospitals.

“I personally called all health institutions and there were zero cases of typhoid or cholera. I also phoned all ambulance services based in Gweru to find out whether they have ferried any typhoid patients to hospital, but all of them denied ever encountering such patients,” Sekenhamo said.

“As of now there are no cases of typhoid or cholera but we are very much on high alert. We have a surveillance team operating in Mkoba so there is no way we can miss these cases,” he said, adding the claims might have emanated from a case where a family reheated refrigerated food in an aluminum pot and eight out of its nine members suffered diarrhoea. He however, said all of them showed no signs of typhoid after tests were conducted.

Outspoken Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association President Conilia Selipiwe, expressed concern over the safety of residents from another possible typhoid outbreak because of the recurrent shortage of water in the city.

“How safe are the residents from another typhoid outbreak, as we are really concerned about poor water reticulation which has been going on for a long time?” Selipiwe asked.

Deputy Mayor Cleopas Shiri confirmed there was less than eight months’ supply of water left at Gwenhoro plant which is the city’s main supply source. He said the council had introduced water rationing so that other areas might also receive water at least once a week hence the intermittent shortages.

Typhoid is a water-borne disease caused by bacteria called Salmonela. Vomiting, headaches, pain in the abdomen and loss of appetite are some of its symptoms. Typhoid and Cholera can be treated but Zimbabwe’s poor health system and a lackadaisical approach to hygiene by its city authorities have seen thousands die from the ailments in recent years.

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