The first case of cholera in Beitbridge this year was recorded on 12 March, a baby girl from Kwaru area, where there is an acute water crisis. However, in the past two weeks alone, the cases have risen to 233, with six deaths being recorded.
On the other hand, an HIV crisis is unfolding in the border town where 18 946 people are HIV-positive, a worrisome situation, particularly in view of the cholera outbreak.
The prevalence of HIV in Beitbridge stands at 11.76%, while the number of sex workers who raise the risk of contraction of the pandemic is 800, with 350 of them having already tested positive. The majority are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART).
The development has seen the town’s municipality, NAC and Unicef entering into a partnership to combat the cholera outbreak as well as fight HIV.
Beitbridge District Aids Coordinator (DAC) Edward Mlauzi told The NewsHawks on Thursday at the town’s major hospital in Dulibadzimu that his organisation has enrolled cholera and HIV focal persons who were trained on Wednesday with funding from Unicef. They will conduct door-to-door education awareness so that the local community may be capacitated on how to manage the health crisis.
He said the focal persons are targeting to reach out to 400 households in the first phase of the campaign that is expected to immediately kick off.
“As you know, people with HIV have a relatively weaker immune system which means their bodies do not have full strength to fight emerging diseases. So with the emerging of cholera in Beitbridge, what it means is that people living with HIV are at a higher risk if they contract cholera. Accordingly, we are now working with the municipality and Unicef to heighten awareness of the situation mostly among people living with HIV who are at a higher risk.
“Unicef is providing funding for the moblisation of cholera and HIV focal points while the municipality is doubling efforts to improve sanitation and water services,” he said.
Pio Muchena, the Beitbridge municipality’s senior environment officer, said the partnership is designed to reduce the effect of the health crisis.
“What caused cholera is that we have a new area that is under housing development and therefore water services there are still poor. They are yet to finish installation of sewer lines and there are now illegal connections.
“Cholera is mainly caused by water contaminated with human waste and so due to the situation I have explained, the outbreak occurred. We are trying to save people, mostly those with HIV because they are at a higher risk. So, as we speak, as the municipality, we have already begun efforts to improve sanitation and water services. We have some companies that are pledging to supply mobile toilets and this is part of the efforts we are making to manage the crisis,” he said.
Being a border town, Beitbridge is frequented by people from different places in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries. If the twin cholera and HIV crises are not contained, they could spiral into public health emergencies, burdening an already crumbling healthcare system. — NewsHawks