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Zimbabwe: supporting health workers in the fight against cholera

26-12-2008 Feature

On a cloud-filled December morning, a team of five health workers based at Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare waits to liaise with the ward nurses in charge at this cholera treatment centre. The nurses have been assessing those admitted to the hospital overnight with suspected cases of cholera.


  © ICRC/M. Sithole    
16.12.2008. A city health worker disinfects the home of a cholera patient in a densely populated suburb of Harare. 

The names and addresses of patients with severe symptoms of cholera are taken and given to the team. The team will immediately visit the homes of these patients in an effort to fight the spread of cholera.


 Rapid response  

Prior to their departure, the team meets and plans their route for the day. " An early and rapid response is very important to preventing the spread of cholera, " says Benjamin Jombe, a member of the disinfection team of Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital.

" The team was facing a number of challenges in particular with the regular provision of transportation to enable patients'homes to be disinfected,” notes Mr Tanyanyiwa of Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital.

In cooperation with the health authorities of the City of Harare, the ICRC has provided three city health teams a vehicle and a driver along with protective clothing, spraying equipment and other supplies. With the support of the ICRC, each team is able to visit the homes of eight to ten patients a day to ensure a swift response to each suspected cholera case.


 Education and prevention  

Working every day of the week since 15 December, the team has visited various suburbs of Harare. At the patients'homes, the team disinfects the possessions of the patient, such as blankets and clothing, with chlorinated water to kill the cholera bacteria. The aim is to ensure that all items the patient came into contact with when he or she fell ill are disinfected.

Whilst two members of the team attend to the possessions in the home, the rest of the team carries out hygiene education in the neighbourhood of the patient through the provision of information leaflets, soap and water purification tablets. In addition, the team meets and assesses members of the patient’s family to ensure that they are not displaying symptoms of cholera. If any family member they meet is displaying symptoms, the teams transfer them to the nearest cholera treatment ce ntre.