Health Action in Crises - Highlights No. 237, 01 - 07 Dec 2008

from World Health Organization
Published on 05 Dec 2008 View Original
Each week, the World Health Organization Health Action in Crises in Geneva produces information highlights on critical health-related activities in countries where there are humanitarian crises. Drawing on the various WHO programmes, contributions cover activities from field and country offices and the support provided by WHO regional offices and headquarters. The mandate of the WHO departments specifically concerned with Emergency and Humanitarian Action in Crises is to increase the effectiveness of the WHO contribution to crisis preparedness and response, transition and recovery. This note, which is not exhaustive, is designed for operational use and does not reflect any official position of the WHO Secretariat.


- The MoH called a meeting of the humanitarian community on 3 December to discuss the situation.

- The cholera outbreak is spilling into South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique. In South Africa, the MoH confirmed 428 suspected cases and 8 deaths as of 1 December. WHO and partners are monitoring the situation in neighbouring countries.

Assessments and Events

- The health situation is characterized by poverty, food insecurity, weak human and material government capacity and high HIV/AIDS prevalence. The cholera outbreak is only the most visible and acute of a number of problems.

- As of 4 December, 12 700 cases of cholera and 570 related deaths were reported in nine of the country's 10 provinces. The trend of new suspected cases has been rising since 20 November. The upcoming rainy season is expected to exacerbate the situation and raise further the number of cases.

- The crisis is exacerbated by the breakdown of infrastructure: lack of safe drinking water, poor sanitation, failing health system and reduced health force. The case fatality rate averages 4.5% (it should be less than 1%), demonstrating weaknesses in case management and/or infection control practices.

- The Government asked for urgent international help to address the outbreak and wider health sector challenges.


- WHO is working with the MoH and NGO and Health Cluster partners to monitor and respond to newly reported outbreaks and with WATSAN Cluster partners to provide safe water to communities in need.

- Health partners are supporting cholera treatment centres in 26 districts.

- Health Cluster partners have agreed on a comprehensive cholera response plan, that addresses gaps in detection, assessment, organization of response, case management, surveillance and public information and are mapping the distribution of agencies by province.

- To fill these gaps, WHO procured medicines and supplies for 800 severe cholera cases or 3200 moderate cases and more is due to arrive. On 25 November, WHO also delivered enough supplies to treat 50 000 people for three months for common conditions. A HAC logistician is in Harare to set up a supply chain.

- WHO is deploying an outbreak investigation and response team, including logisticians and epidemiologists as well as social mobilization, media management and WATSAN specialists.

- WHO issued an initial call for US$ 2 million to respond to the outbreak. Detailed proposals for additional support are being finalized.

- In 2008, funds to support humanitarian health activities have been received from Italy, Ireland and the CERF.