Cholera: All must play their part

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - COMMENT -

THE me­te­o­rol­o­gists tell us that the rainy sea­son is around the cor­ner.

At the same time, health of­fi­cials are telling us that close to 4 000 peo­ple have been hos­pi­talised for sus­pected cholera and ty­phoid, two deadly water-borne dis­eases.

About 30 peo­ple have al­ready lost their lives to cholera.

The pre­ventable di­ar­rhoeal dis­eases, which are spread through con­tam­i­nated water, can cause se­vere de­hy­dra­tion and death within hours if left un­treated.

When the rain sea­son starts, we ex­pect the open­ing of the heav­ens to wash away any re­main­ing traces of food in­se­cu­rity not to ex­ac­er­bate the pub­lic health sit­u­a­tion.

To en­sure that water is a giver of life and not a taker of it, we have to all ori­ent our­selves to­wards pre­ven­tion and cure.

It does not help us in any way to ex­pend any­more of our en­ergy as a na­tion on point­ing fin­gers at each other while lives are be­ing lost to what ev­ery­one agrees is a me­dieval dis­ease that should not have res­i­dence any­where in the 21st cen­tury.

In­stead of point­ing fin­gers at each other, now is the time to be point­ing at so­lu­tions so that we ex­pe­di­tiously deal with the cur­rent cholera prob­lem and en­sure that it does not re­cur in fu­ture.

In­deed, the ef­forts that have been ex­erted in con­tain­ing the cholera out­break on the part of Gov­ern­ment, the pri­vate sec­tor and donor agen­cies, as well as in­di­vid­u­als, has been en­cour­ag­ing.

With Gov­ern­ment, through the Min­istry of Health and Child Care, hav­ing al­ready de­clared the out­break a state of emer­gency, we have seen Zim­bab­weans from all walks of life join­ing hands to con­front this spec­tre in our midst.

The col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts from all stake­hold­ers will yield the de­sired out­come of an end to the out­break.

The min­istries in charge of Health, Water and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment are lead­ing the way in show­ing what Zim­bab­weans can achieve when they work to­gether to­wards a com­mon, pos­i­tive out­come. The chal­lenges fac­ing us as a na­tion re­quire a con­certed re­sponse by all Zim­bab­weans and var­i­ous other stake­hold­ers.

Away from the com­mend­able col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts, and away from the blame game ju­ve­nile politi­cians and arm­chair crit­ics want to dis­tract the na­tion with, we should quite im­por­tantly be also look­ing at how to en­sure a re­peat of the cur­rent cholera out­break does not re­cur.

Only so much can be done on thin re­sources.

It is, there­fore, de­sir­able for all Zim­bab­weans to work for na­tional eco­nomic devel­op­ment, which will al­low greater in­vest­ment in health and in­fra­struc­ture so that we need not worry about cholera any­more.

As it stands, the Health Min­istry has been get­ting much less than the Abuja Dec­la­ra­tion’s rec­om­mended 15 per­cent of the Na­tional Bud­get.

Yes, re­sources are tight and pri­or­i­ties are many. But there can be no greater pri­or­ity than pro­tect­ing hu­man life.

As such, na­tional and coun­cil bud­gets should re­flect this over­ar­ch­ing pri­or­ity. The health of the peo­ple of Zim­babwe is at the cen­tre of the coun­try’s so­cio-eco­nomic well-be­ing.

An ail­ing na­tion can­not be ef­fi­cient in agri­cul­ture, min­ing, tourism, in­dus­try or any other sec­tor.

This re­quires of us to in­vest in health, water, san­i­ta­tion and food se­cu­rity as the back­bone of our na­tional devel­op­ment as­pi­ra­tions.

Gov­ern­ment has em­barked on a mod­erni­sa­tion agenda that will, among other things, en­tail an in­crease in the num­ber of houses in ur­ban and peri-ur­ban ar­eas.

This nec­es­sar­ily speaks to hav­ing a mod­ern water and san­i­ta­tion sys­tem.

Zim­babwe can take a leaf from Is­rael, a coun­try whose to­tal area is 60 per­cent desert.

De­spite the ob­vi­ous water prob­lems that come with oc­cu­py­ing such ter­rain, the au­thor­i­ties in that coun­try have en­sured peo­ple have ac­cess to this ba­sic. They have in­vested in ef­fi­cient water man­age­ment sys­tems and Is­rael even ex­ports fruits.

Com­pared to Is­rael’s Arava Desert which receives about an inch of rain a year, Zim­babwe is a rain for­est.

Apart from in­vest­ing in the ap­pro­pri­ate in­fra­struc­ture and be­ing in­no­va­tive in our ap­proaches to water man­age­ment, there is also need for the pub­lic to cul­ti­vate an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of ba­sic hy­giene.

It can­not be es­caped that even where water sup­ply is guar­an­teed, some peo­ple put the en­tire na­tion at risk be­cause of their poor per­sonal hy­giene stan­dards.

Sim­ple things like wash­ing hands, us­ing ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties prop­erly and stor­ing food and water the right way go a long way in sav­ing lives and build­ing a stronger na­tion.

Ev­ery­one has a role to play. Let’s all do what we must.

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