Health education essential to curbing Zimbabwe cholera outbreak

Author: Nadia McGill

SILVER SPRING, Md.- An ongoing cholera outbreak could continue to escalate across Zimbabwe unless a concerted effort is made to educate residents about how to prevent the transmission of this deadly disease, warned the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

To curb the outbreak, which has killed nearly 4,000 people across Zimbabwe and has affected more than 90 percent of districts, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), ADRA is conducting participatory health and hygiene workshops (PHHE) and dispensing educational materials to teach recipients how to reduce their risk of exposure to cholera. ADRA is also improving access to clean water in areas with inadequate or contaminated water supplies, and distributing jerry cans, water treatment tablets, disinfectants, and medical supplies to residents living near the cities of Harare, Bulawayo, and also in the eastern Manicaland province.

"Successful health education campaigns, such as PHHE, are essential to winning the battle against cholera," said Dr. Zivayi Nengomasha, acting country director for ADRA Zimbabwe. "Communities are unable to prevent, identify, or treat the disease if they are not properly equipped with the tools that these workshops provide."

In Kuwadzana, a community outside Harare, and Chendambuya, in Manicaland, ADRA's PHHE workshops utilize medical practitioners that provide training for teachers in safe health and hygiene behaviors. Through a shipment of materials provided by local partner, the Hospice Association of Zimbabwe (HOSPAZ), ADRA is distributing jerry cans, buckets, water tablets, home-based health care kits, oral rehydration salts, and materials that educate the community on preventative methods for 1,000 people living with HIV in Kuwadzana.

Nearly 61,000 people will benefit from this ADRA campaign, which began in mid-December, and will continue through March 2009.

As part of its initial response, approximately 2,500 people benefited from ADRA's clean up campaign in Kuwadzana, while 500 people in Chendambuya and Kuwadzana benefited from the distribution of jerry cans, water treatment tablets, disinfectants and health education materials. In January, ADRA moved into Old Pumula, a Bulawayo suburb, distributing 1,000 jerry cans, and 100,000 water treatment tablets, disinfectants, and health education materials to at-risk families. In February, ADRA increased its response to include the distribution of 1,200 jerry cans and another estimated 100,000 water treatment tablets in Kuwadzana and Chendambuya where 16,200 people are learning improved health and hygiene behaviors in order to minimize infections.

ADRA is also drilling five boreholes in the selected regions, increasing the supply of clean water for a total of 2,500 people, and establishing hand-washing facilities in medical and educational institutions in Kuwadzana and Chendambuya.

In addition, ADRA is providing disinfectants to health clinics, schools, and vulnerable residents who are living near open sewers or are infected with HIV.

ADRA will also distribute a consignment of medical goods supplied by World Emergency Relief (WER)-UK, and WER-Holland. Other distributions include oral rehydration salts (ORS) provided by Global Assistance, and 576,000 doses of ORS from Hope for the Cities.

Not including the medical supplies, the project is valued at more than $93,000, and is funded through a partnership between ADRA Czech Republic, ADRA Denmark, ADRA International, ADRA Norway, ADRA Netherlands, ADRA Sweden, ADRA Australia, ADRA Canada, ADRA New Zealand, ADRA United Kingdom, ADRA Portugal, and ADRA Japan.

ADRA's partners assisting with the implementation of this project include the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, Sports, and Culture, the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the Ward AIDS Action Committee; the Bulawayo City Council, the Harare City Council, the Makoni Rural District Council, the Tazvinzwa Support Group, the Adventist Health Clinic in Harare, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the District Development Fund, as well as other local clinics, local governmental leaders, non-governmental organizations, and faith- and community-based organizations.

To assist in ADRA's emergency response to the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, contributions can be donated to ADRA's Emergency Response Fund, by phone at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or online at www.adra.org.

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity.

Additional information about ADRA can be found at www.adra.org.

For more information, contact:
John Torres, Senior Public Relations Manager
301.680.6357 (office)
301.680.6370 (fax)