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Zimbabwe: disinfecting homes to counter cholera

19-12-2008 News Release 08/244

Harare/Geneva (ICRC) – As people continue to die from cholera, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been broadening its response in order to prevent more people from becoming infected. Since the beginning of the week the ICRC has joined forces with health workers from Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital and Budiriro Polyclinic to disinfect the homes of cholera patients in the capital Harare.

Toilets, blankets and clothing are being sprayed with a chlorine-based disinfectant.

" We are spraying the homes to break the transmission cycle of cholera bacteria. We want to make sure that the disease does not threaten those who are not infected, " said Benjamin Jombe from Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital.

In addition to disinfecting the homes, the ICRC staff and city health workers advise the families of patients and neighbourhood residents on how to avoid catching the disease. They also identify people who have contracted cholera and take them to treatment centres. In the coming days, they will distribute water-purification tablets, buckets and soap to promote sanitation in affected communities. The ICRC is providing protective clothing, other supplies and transportation for the personnel involved in this work.

On Wednesday the ICRC donated pumps, water-testing equipment and spare parts to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) at the main water-treatment plant serving Harare and the surrounding area. " The donated equipment will go a long way towards improving the plant's efficiency, " said ZINWA Chief Executive Albert Muyambo. Since November 2007 the ICRC has provided support for ZINWA's efforts to stem the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera through improvement in the quality and quantity of the city water supply.

The ICRC is coordinating its response to the cholera epidemic with partners within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other humanitarian organizations. Since September the ICRC has been supporting eight clinics in Harare's densely populat ed suburbs and 18 other health facilities in rural areas. In addition to improving access to clean water in those facilities, the ICRC has flown in 13 tonnes of medical supplies from Kenya and arranged for two cholera experts to travel from Geneva. Nearly 1,000 lives have been claimed by the disease and about 18,500 cases recorded since August.

For further information, please contact:
  Robin Waudo, ICRC Harare, tel. +263 91 2240 960
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 79 217 3217