Editorial Comment: Let’s stop cholera in its tracks

File picture of typical unhygienic conditions that can cause cholera.

File picture of typical unhygienic conditions that can cause cholera.

THE cholera outbreak with eight recorded cases and no fatalities must be stopped in its tracks. This responsibility does not lie with the Civil Protection Unit and the Ministry of Health and Child Care alone but with local authorities and every person in the country, citizen, resident and visitor alike.

The concerned officials have acted commendably in quickly moving in to treat, investigate and quarantine the infected as each case required. They have also done well in issuing an alert to put the rest of the nation on their guard.

The cases have been reported in Mudzi, Beitbridge and Chiredzi with a case in Chirundu being investigated. At least 41 people have died in Mozambique from an outbreak, which is why it is of prime national importance to arrest the disease before it spreads.

Memories of the last serious outbreak in which many people died are still fresh in the mind and the last thing we need is a repetition of that. The costs in human lives, medication and national brand are too high.

Such outbreaks reinforce the global misconception of Africa as a homogenous continent defined by deadly diseases and gross ignorance of basic hygiene.

Local authorities should play their role in ensuring access to potable water for residents and providing services for waste disposal.

The City of Harare has come under fire for failing to collect refuse around the city and the provision of smelly and dirty-looking water.

Burst sewage and erratic water supplies for most high-density suburbs of the city and Chitungwiza are also a cause for worry.

Adequate toilet facilities at public places like bus termini should also be provided without fail.

Zimbabweans are wont to quote the country’s high literacy rates at every opportunity.

This national pride in our achievements is all well and good, if only we would convert this literacy into a useful skill to improve our daily lives. One of the key areas where we should be using that much vaunted literacy rate is in reading, understanding and internalising information on pamphlets, posters and fliers pertaining to our health.

There is no reason why anyone should succumb to an avoidable disease like cholera and typhoid when information on how to avoid it is regularly released into the public forum through various media outlets.

Contracting such illnesses means that one will have eaten food directly contaminated by infected fecal matter. We submit that this can be avoided by everyone with due caution.

The basic rules of avoiding such diseases include stringent hand washing before eating and after toilet use, protecting food from flies and other contaminants as well as only drinking certified clean water. Proper disposal of waste material is also important.

These are general guidelines that we should all be following as a matter of course and not just because there is a disease outbreak somewhere. Yet many of us often disregard these life-saving precautions.

In spite of the availability of water purification tablets and chemicals at nominal prices in many supermarkets, some people still drink water from unprotected sources without treating it.

Others are also happy to patronise informal food vendors, whose operations are not regulated by any health inspectors to ensure that acceptable safety standards are met.

Many people eat things like fast foods and what they purchase from street vendors without bothering to wash their hands.

In other instances, some people just wet their hands in lieu of a proper wash with detergent and running water.

Everyone, especially those travelling long distances, should strive to carry hand sanitisers which are available in portable packaging for when proper hand washing is impos- sible.

Let us keep cholera at bay by taking care of ourselves.