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Cholera fears for learners mount as schools reopen

by Staff reporter
08 Jan 2024 at 05:34hrs | Views
FEARS abound that learners' lives are at risk due to the prevailing cholera outbreak as schools open tomorrow.

Health experts have urged government to strengthen its surveillance and case management systems in schools to avoid a disaster.

According to a report by the Africa Centre for Diseases Control, Zimbabwe is among 18 countries battling cholera in the world.

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa yesterday called for extra vigilance and quick action in managing cholera outbreaks in schools.

"Our neighbouring Zambia extended the holidays because of cholera and they are not opening their schools. Here, they are emphasising on surveillance. Inasmuch as we want to advocate delaying the opening of schools, there is no guarantee that by month end, cholera cases would have gone down," he said.

"We are now calling for extra vigilance and quick action when it comes case management. If we fail on case management, we are going to have disaster. Cholera is very fast on a patient, it can be very fast with complications. A patient can die within hours and we can lose children before even consulting their parents."

The country has recorded 280 suspected cholera deaths, with 65 of them confirmed since the first care last February.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the risk of cholera transmission in schools is potentially higher if adequate measures are not put in place.

"We urge the government, school authorities, parents, guardians and learners to exercise extreme caution and vigilance as schools open during the cholera outbreak by taking strict preventative measures in order to avoid unnecessary loss of lives," he said.

Rusike urged the government and its partners to urgently address the issue of water availability at learning centres.

Educators Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Tapedza Zhou said the government is ill-equipped to protect everyone from cholera, while calling for the postponement of opening of schools.

"Children' lives and those of their teachers come first before education. The ministry is ill-equipped to protect everyone from cholera, hence they should postpone the opening of schools until the cholera is curbed. This is the most logical thing," he said.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said both teachers and pupils were at risk.

"I am hearing people worried with only students, but also with us teachers, we are at risk. We need the government to put adequate measures to deal with cholera in schools," he said.

Parents who spoke to NewsDay yesterday in Harare expressed mixed feelings on the opening of schools at a time the nation is failing to deal with the deadly diarrhoeal disease.

"I think the government should delay the opening of schools by at least three weeks and manage the situation before losing our children to Cholera," said one parent, Tambudzai Mushonga.

"Government should just put adequate measures to deal with cholera cases just like what they are doing with cholera cases."

Primary and Secondary education  minister Torerai Moyo said schools should observe laid-down cholera protocols to ensure safe opening of schools.

He made the remarks at Warren Park 1 High School during a clean-up campaign, where he encouraged schools to promote the washing of hands through installing hand-washing points around the school.

"We encourage school administrators, supported by schools' development committees, to ensure there is running water. Where we experience water shortages, we need to devise some strategies of ensuring that water is there," Moyo said.

Over the weekend, Zambia suspended school opening by three weeks, a development meant to thwart new cholera cases.

Schools in Harare are in a precarious position as health officials have identified at least four bacteria that cause water-borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid.

The authorities have been battling to bring the outbreak under control and the number of cholera cases shot up during the festive season, with some of the Harare high-density suburbs emerging as the new epicentres.

As of yesterday morning, Zimbabwe had recorded 15 755 cholera cases and 5 907 of them in Harare.

Source - newsday
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