International Medical Corps has launched an emergency health, water and sanitation program in Zimbabwe, with the support of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department.
Since December 2008, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team has been present in Zimbabwe conducting rapid assessments in response to the ongoing cholera outbreak.
The outbreak has killed more than 4,200 people since August last year, with more than 98,000 cases reported. The World Health Organization has called it the worst outbreak in the country since a 1992 epidemic that killed 3,000 people. The cumulative case fatality rate is 4.3%, well above the internationally accepted standard of 1%.
International Medical Corps’ assessments showed an overburdened health care workforce, lack of adequate drugs and supplies, lack of food for patients and staff at treatment centres, a weak health surveillance system, and low capacity for case detection and management.
The very high prevalence of HIV throughout the country and high rates of malnutrition in children under 5 are additional factors underlying the vulnerability of the population to cholera. The current outbreak has also weakened already stressed primary health care services.
Now, with support from the European Commission, International Medical Corps is implementing a project in the Bindura and Rushinga Districts to prevent and proactively monitor, respond and contain outbreaks of diarrheal diseases.
International Medical Corps aims to reach 88,000 people by improving access to community health education, providing oral re-hydration salts and reducing the number of cholera cases and deaths.
International Medical Corps will also improve access to safe water and improve hygiene practices – disseminating at least 10,000 hygiene promotion materials (with emphasis on hand washing, safe food handling practices and household waste management practices) and distributing at least 3,500 hygiene kits (which include water containers, aqua-tabs, soap, and oral re-hydration salts).
“While the outbreak has largely been contained, vulnerability throughout the country remains high,” commented Peter Medway, Director of International Medical Corps UK. “That’s why our program is so vital. Not only are we saving lives in the short-term, but we’re putting a framework in place to actively prevent, monitor, respond to and contain cholera outbreaks at both community and health facility level.”