Zimbabwe: Post-flood concerns over malaria and diarrhoea

News and Press Release
Originally published
JOHANNESBURG, 13 March (IRIN) - Malaria and diarrhoeal diseases are likely to worsen the plight of Zimbabweans already battling to survive. This follows a year marked by floods, drought, and serious food shortages.
According to the latest Zimbabwe Humanitarian Situation Report by the UN Relief and Recovery Unit (RRU), there has been a sudden increase in malaria in Binga, Hurungwe and Kariba in the north west of the country and outbreaks have been reported in Bindura and Shamva districts in the north east.

The report said that although no statistics had been provided, the affected populations were mainly the newly resettled farmers who had benefited from the land redistribution programme.

The RRU noted that by the end of the first eight weeks of the year, there were 163 deaths from malaria and 97,885 cases reported. A spraying programme was still ongoing but coverage was "very low". Also, two important drugs had not been procured leaving the drug situation "critical".

The agency warned that there would be a malaria outbreak in Muzarabani, Guruve and parts of Masvingo and Manicaland provinces which were affected by Cyclone Japhet last week.

At least eight people died in the south and east of the country during floods brought on by the cyclone.

"There is a high potential for disease outbreaks and thus interventions for mitigation are urgently needed. Resources are needed for the rehabilitation of water supplies, and chemicals for disinfection of drinking water at household level," the report said.

Chris McIvor, director of Save the Children UK (SCF) told IRIN that last Friday the Zimbabwe Air Force had had to rescue at least 30 people stranded between two rivers in Nyaminyami in the north west, while villagers came to the rescue of another 20 people.

"They have been displaced from their homes so SCF provided them with blankets, cutlery, cooking equipment, mosquito repellant and food," McIvor said.

They were currently being housed with family and friends. However, the concern now is for their crops and whether it would be possible to plant a late season bean crop to replace those lost in the floods for a community where at least 12,000 people were already dependent on food aid.

"A few weeks ago there were indications that the harvest would be reasonable, but although assessments are being conducted, it seems there is a significant amount of crop damage," he said.

In Chimanimani in the east of the country, a visit by the RRU and the local district administration found that up to 70 percent of the banana crop, 50 percent of the avocado crop and 50 percent of the maize crop had been lost during the floods in the low lying areas. These were mainly cash crops for the people living there.

In nearby Chipinge the cyclone's effects were more severe with reports of infrastructure damage to both housing and schools. Sixty percent of the maize crop has been estimated to have been damaged and beans, avocado and coffee crops had also been damaged.

The team that toured the area, which borders Mozambique which bore the brunt of the cyclone, suggested that if 5 mt of short-season maize seeds were procured for the area over the next 14 days there could be adequate agricultural recovery.

Meanwhile, cholera continues to pose a threat in the Beitbridge area with four deaths and 52 cases were reported from 17 February to 4 March, the report said. All cases were reported outside Beitbridge town itself and the district has set up treatment camps and mobile teams for the control and surveillance of cholera.


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