Tragedy be­hind the cholera sta­tis­tics

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Feature - ◆ Feed­back: rumbidzaing­ Rumbidzayi Ng­wenya Fea­tures Writer

FOR the Mang­warire fam­ily of Glen View 8, Harare, September 8 will forever be etched in their minds. The fate­ful day, which started like any other nor­mal Satur­day, ended in sor­row as they un­ex­pect­edly lost a hus­band, fa­ther, son and brother.

Regerai Mang­warire (45) ran a small busi­ness around Glen View 8 Com­plex where hun­dreds oth­ers ply their car­pen­try trade.

That morn­ing, Mang­warire as usual left his fam­ily home in seem­ingly good health, but as soon as he ar­rived at the com­plex he com­plained to his friends of what sounded like cholera symp­toms — body weak­ness, vomit­ing and di­ar­rhoea.

As the day pro­gressed, Mang­warire’s con­di­tion wors­ened, his friends no­ti­fied the fam­ily and rushed him to Parireny­atwa Hospi­tal, and later to Beatrice Road In­fec­tious Dis­eases Hospi­tal, com­monly known as Nazareth.

Upon re­ceiv­ing cholera-re­lated med­i­ca­tion, he was sent back home, look­ing and feel­ing bet­ter.

“When we left the hospi­tal, the vomit­ing and di­ar­rhoea had stopped and we thought he was get­ting bet­ter,” said Dorothy Thandi (39), wife to the late Mang­warire. “We even pre­pared him a meal when we got home and he ate it.”

But that same night, tragedy stuck, his health de­te­ri­o­rated and he passed on.

Mang­warire was a fa­ther to four chil­dren aged 20, 17, eight and four, who solely de­pended on him.

His un­timely de­par­ture has left them grounded.

Although the two older chil­dren could un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing and were in tears, the other two played in­no­cently in the back­yard, maybe hop­ing their fa­ther would re­turn home from work.

Mang­warire’s widow, Dorothy, who is un­em­ployed, told The Her­ald that her hus­band’s death had dras­ti­cally changed the fam­ily’s fu­ture, es­pe­cially for the chil­dren who are still in school.

“I don’t know what the fu­ture holds for me and the chil­dren, but as I speak, I don’t have a plan,” she said. “I don’t know how I will pay rent, school fees or buy food and cloth­ing.

“My hus­band was the bread­win­ner and now that he is gone the chil­dren may stop go­ing to school.”

Dorothy wept as she col­lapsed into her mother-in-law Beauty Mang­warire’s arms, while she con­soled her.

After a few min­utes of com­fort­ing each other, Beauty wore a brave face, but still ex­pressed pain as she ex­plained how her son was buried.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, she would have loved to bury her son among his other rel­a­tives in a grave­yard at their ru­ral home in Rusape.

She was not al­lowed to view the body of her son, nei­ther was she per­mit­ted to trans­port him to their ru­ral home for burial be­cause of health stip­u­la­tions for all cholera vic­tims.

“I am hurt that I have lost my son,” said Beauty. “I am more pained by the fact that I did not have the chance to bid farewell to him as per our tra­di­tions.

“I am trou­bled. We buried him like an out­cast. I would have wanted my son to be laid to rest in Rusape, but the sit­u­a­tion forced us to bury him at Granville Ceme­tery.

“I don’t even know if I buried my real son or some­one else’s and that thought will haunt me forever.”

All this pain was trig­gered by cholera, an acute in­testi­nal in­fec­tion caused by in­ges­tion of food or wa­ter con­tam­i­nated with the bac­terium Vib­rio cholerae.

On this day, tragedy did not visit the Mang­warire fam­ily alone, but a num­ber of fam­i­lies in Glen View and Budiriro.

About a kilo­me­tre from Mang­warire’s lodg­ings in Glen View 3, an­other fam­ily was also left bereft.

At around 1am on Satur­day, Simudzi­rai Group of Schools head­mas­ter, Mr Rod­well Sa­mukange (70), also started com­plain­ing of stom­ach pains.

By dawn, he was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing di­ar­rhoea, vomit­ing and other cholera-like symp­toms.

He was rushed to Glen View Poly­clinic where he re­ceived med­i­ca­tion and was sent back home.

Dur­ing the day, the vomit­ing and di­ar­rhoea had stopped, but around mid­night the sit­u­a­tion wors­ened and he died.

He was buried at Zororo Memo­rial Park with the help of health of­fi­cials.

Sa­mukange’s cousin, Henry Marota, told The Her­ald that although the burial was con­ducted in such a man­ner, the fam­ily still didn’t know if he suc­cumbed to cholera as no for­mal word was com­mu­ni­cated from the hospi­tal.

“I can’t say that he died of cholera as we were not sure, but the hos­pi­tals sus­pected it was, so we just fol­lowed all the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions,” said Marota, who is now the head­mas­ter at the school.

“We were left dev­as­tated by his death, no­body thought he would die. We were so pos­i­tive that he would get bet­ter, but it all hap­pened so fast.”

Sa­mukange is sur­vived by a wife and eight chil­dren.

As a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, Simuki­rai Group of Schools sus­pended classes after the in­ci­dent un­til the dust set­tles.

The Mang­warire and Sa­mukange fam­i­lies are just two of the 25 fam­i­lies who have lost their loved ones over the week to cholera.

Fol­low­ing the cholera out­break, two bore­holes were de­com­mis­sioned in Budiriro after tests con­firmed they were con­tam­i­nated with the bac­te­ria that causes the disease.

Un­for­tu­nately, fam­i­lies have al­ready con­sumed the wa­ter.

Raw sewage continues to flow down the streets, leav­ing people more vul­ner­a­ble to cholera.

Piles of un­col­lected de­cay­ing rub­bish form moun­tains ev­ery­where.

Res­i­dents have blasted the city of­fi­cials and blamed their lax­ity for the loss of lives.

A livid Glen View 3 res­i­dent, who is also a di­rec­tor at Simudzi­rai Group of Schools, God­frey Matsa, called on the Gov­ern­ment to deal with the Harare City Coun­cil and make them ac­count­able for the lives lost.

“Can we go on like this?” he said. “Can we con­tinue to nor­malise the ab­nor­mal?” The coun­cil is not do­ing enough and even up to this day they don’t have a mean­ing­ful so­lu­tion to the prob­lems at hand.

“We can­not ac­cess wa­ter reg­u­larly even though the coun­cil is fully aware of the col­lapsed sewer in­fra­struc­ture in this area. What does that mean?”

Matsa said the Harare City Coun­cil should pri­ori­tise people’s health by re­spond­ing to re­ports on time be­fore they be­come dis­as­ters.

“We have made sev­eral com­plaints over burst sewage pipes, lack of wa­ter and un­col­lected garbage, but the coun­cil said they don’t have ma­chin­ery, equip­ment and man­power to at­tend to the prob­lem,” he said.

“Now that there is a dis­as­ter they are flock­ing in. Where did the ma­chin­ery come from now?”

Health ex­perts say it is sad that lives were lost to cholera, a disease that is pre­ventable if san­i­ta­tion is im­proved, and cur­able if re­ported in time.

This loss could have been pre­vented, lives saved and fam­i­lies spared from grief.

In just a week, 3 766 sus­pected cholera cases were re­ported in Harare and Chi­tung­wiza alone.

Many fam­i­lies felt the im­pact of the non-dis­crim­i­na­tory cholera which took in­no­cent lives, young and old, in­clud­ing two pupils from Glen View 5 Pri­mary School.

Many times, deaths that come as a re­sult of tragedies like cholera are com­pressed into sta­tis­tics, but beyond the num­bers, fam­i­lies have lost vi­tal cogs and cher­ished rel­a­tives.

BE­REAVED . . . Dorothy Thandi with three of her four chil­dren. Her hus­band, Regerai Mang­warire, suc­cumbed to cholera

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