Death toll tops 1,100 from Zimbabwe cholera

Death toll tops 1,100 from Zimbabwe cholera
December 18 2008
By Nelson Banya

HARARE

The death toll from a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe has soared to 1,111, the United Nations said on Thursday, adding to pressure for a quick solution to the crisis in the southern African country.

South African ruling African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma ruled out military intervention and backed a diplomatic push as the way to end political deadlock and prevent a total collapse of the once relatively prosperous nation.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs Jendayi Frazer also backed a political rather than military solution but was far from hopeful about talks between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition on forming a unity government.

“We certainly think that the power sharing deal is on life support, it’s close to dead,” Frazer said in Mozambique.

That cast doubt on comments from South African President Kgalema Motlanthe that he hoped for agreement this week.

The latest cholera figures from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva included a new outbreak in Chegutu Urban, west of Harare, where more than 378 cases and 121 deaths were recorded, it said in a statement.

It added that more than 20,580 people had been affected by cholera since August.

The spread of the disease, which causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration and is normally easy to treat, has increased international pressure on Mugabe. Western countries have renewed calls on the veteran leader to step down.

Prominent figures, including Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Nobel peace laureate and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have called for Mugabe to go or for peacekeeping troops to be sent to Zimbabwe.

When asked in an interview with South Africa’s 702 Talk Radio whether he favoured sending troops to Zimbabwe, ANC leader Zuma said: “No. Why military intervention when there is no war? We should be pressurising them to see the light.”

MEDIATION

South Africa’s ANC-led government, however, has continued to back the regional SADC group’s efforts to mediate an end to the crisis. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is leading the mediation of the power-sharing talks.

Mugabe, 84, agreed to share power with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in September, raising hopes that a unity government could reverse the country’s economic meltdown and rebuild basic services.

Inflation in Zimbabwe has spiralled out of control. Prices are doubling every 24 hours and unemployment is above 80 percent. Millions have fled to South Africa and neighbouring countries is search of work and food.

South African President Motlanthe announced on Wednesday that Zimbabwe’s neighbours would launch an urgent humanitarian campaign. Motlanthe’s spokesman, Thabo Masebe, said on Thursday it would focus on agricultural aid and would be non-partisan to ensure it could not be used as a political weapon.

The amount of the aid had yet to be finalised and was likely to depend on how much countries could give, he said.

Negotiations between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change are deadlocked over who should control key ministries, and there are growing fears the agreement will unravel and lead to violence.

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in a March presidential election but without an absolute majority. He pulled out of the run-off in June, saying scores of his supporters had been killed.

The opposition says attacks have picked up again. They say more than 20 people have been abducted from their homes and offices in the past two weeks. The government has denied the accusations.

Source

Zimbabwe: MSF/Doctors Without Boarders, responds to worst cholera outbreak in years
More than 11,000 patients seen by MSF/Doctors without Boarders

December 12 2008

MSF/Doctors without Boarders, has seen more than 11,000 patients since August in Zimbabwe’s worst cholera outbreak in years and has opened dozens of cholera treatment centres throughout the country. Cases have been found in nearly all provinces. More than 500 national and international MSF staff members are working to identify new cases and to treat patients in need of care.

Harare has been the center of the outbreak; MSF has treated more than 6,000 people in the densely populated capital. A town on the border with South Africa, Beitbridge, has also been hard hit. MSF has provided care to more than 3,000 people with suspected cases of cholera.

Zimbabwe has had major outbreaks of cholera before – it is endemic in certain rural areas – but until the last few years it has been relatively rare in urban areas.

“The scale and the sheer numbers of infection especially in Harare is unprecedented,” says an epidemiologist for MSF who has worked periodically in Zimbabwe for the past seven years. He explains that the key reasons for the outbreak are the inability to access clean water, burst and blocked sewage systems and uncollected garbage overflowing in the streets. “The fact that the outbreak has become so large is an indication that the country’s health system can’t cope.”

MSF is working in two cholera treatment centers (CTCs) which are located in existing health facilities in Harare. The two main CTCs saw in total more than 2,000 people with cases of suspected cholera in the first week of December.

An MSF emergency coordinator in Harare describes the situation: “Imagine a cholera ward with dozens of people under the most basic conditions. For instance, there is only a little electricity so there is hardly any light. It is difficult for the doctors and nurses to even see the patients they are treating. The nurses have to monitor multitudes of IV bags to make sure they don’t run dry which is also difficult to do in the dark and when there are so many patients.”

In Beitbridge, MSF has set up cholera treatment centers run mainly by MSF staff using supplies shipped in from all over the world. The peak of the emergency was unusually early in Beitbridge, which resulted in a high mortality rate within the first couple of days of the severe outbreak in the town. By the fourth day, however, MSF had established a cholera treatment centre and the mortality rate eventually dropped from 15% to less than 1%.

Because MSF has been in the country since 2000 running HIV programs, it has been able to react from the ground and quickly bring in emergency cholera response units.

The outbreak is particularly worrying as it began well before the rainy season. A major concern is that once the heavy rains start, unprotected water sources will become contaminated, causing the further spread of cholera. The rainy season normally starts in November and continues through March, although the heavy rains have yet to be seen in some areas.

An additional challenge has been that government health workers in certain areas, particularly in Harare, are on strike. This has required MSF to rapidly recruit hundreds of nurses and other staff to handle the influx of cholera cases. Significant time and energy is needed to train the new staff, adding considerably to the workload of the existing staff.

MSF has also conducted exploratory missions in rural communities and responded to scattered reports of cholera cases. Low numbers of cases have been found in a number of small villages; MSF established small cholera treatment units (CTUs) where necessary. MSF has eight CTUs in five districts spread over the Manicaland and Mashvingo provinces in the eastern part of Zimbabwe and treated more than 770 patients.

A town on the border with Mozambique, Nyamapanda, also has been affected. When MSF arrived in early November the team found about 150 cholera patients and helped set up one cholera treatment center in the town, as well as four others with the Ministry of Health in the surrounding areas. In total, 1,600 patients have been seen in Mudzi District.

MSF will continue to monitor the situation and treat people in the most affected areas, as well as send emergency staff and supplies to various locations in Zimbabwe where new cases arise.

“A cholera outbreak of this proportion usually continues for several months,” the MSF epidemiologist says. “MSF expects to be caring for cholera patients in Zimbabwe for some time to come.”

Source

CARE Fights Cholera in Zimbabwe
Humanitarian group says as little as $10 could save a life

December 12 2008

Click photo to view an enlarged version (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE))

Children play with stagnant raw sewage at the Machipisa suburb in Harare November 28, 2008. Fast-spreading cholera is “the tip of the iceberg” of what stands to be a major health crisis in Zimbabwe, United Nations agencies said on Friday. Nearly 400 Zimbabweans have died from the disease. (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE))

HARARE, Zimbabwe

CARE is ramping up food aid and sanitation programs in Zimbabwe as part of the international effort to combat one of the worst cholera outbreaks the world has seen in recent years. The humanitarian organization also is calling on the public to help. As little as $10 could save a life. That’s what it takes to provide a household with a bar of soap, a water container and two months worth of aqua-tabs for water purification.

The epidemic has already killed more than 780 people and infected at least 16,400. Almost half the country’s population will be dependant on food aid by January, humanitarian officials project. Unfortunately, because they require large gatherings, food distributions are a perfect conduit for the spread of cholera. So CARE, one of the World Food Program’s largest partners in Zimbabwe, is providing sanitation training and improved access to water, too, in an effort to serve at least 900,000 people.

“More than five million people in the country need food aid right now,” said Fridah Kalumba, CARE’s assistant country director in Zimbabwe. “But with the cholera outbreak, we need to ensure people are protected during distributions, so the disease doesn’t
spread further.”
Click photo to view an enlarged version (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE))

A girl collects drinking water from a stream in Glen Norah, Harare November 27 2008. Zimbabwe, which is battling a serious cholera outbreak amid a worsening economic crisis, is set to get vaccines from China to fight the disease, state media reported on Thursday. (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE))
The crisis is about to enter a pivotal stage. Health workers fear
that the coming rainy season, combined with families traveling
home from urban centers for Christmas, could cause cholera cases to soar in rural districts.

“Cholera outbreaks are usually localized,” said Teresa Chiesa, a
CARE health expert working to stem the crisis in Zimbabwe. “I have never before seen one like this with so many communities over
such a wide area being affected at the same time. It’s a horrific situation.”

CARE, which has been working in Zimbabwe since 1992, employs nearly 600 staffers in the provinces of Masvingo and Midlands. That has allowed CARE to coach people on proper sanitary measures in food distribution centers, schools, orphanages and seniors homes. CARE is supplying families with water jugs, chlorine, water
treatment tablets and soap. And the humanitarian group is building
hand-washing stations at critical sites.

In the longer term, if CARE can raise sufficient funds, it will launch a program to develop a secure supply of clean water. CARE needs $750,000 to carry out its preventative education program and a plan to drill new wells in water-starved communities. Drilling one borehole alone costs approximately $25,000.

“If we do not secure the water supply for these people in the long term,” Chiesa said, “the country will be looking at another outbreak next year, and the year after that, and so on.”

Source

Save the Children, )


Zimbabwe cholera epidemic ‘worsening’ says aid agency

Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic is not under control, Save the Children said today.

December 12 2008
Speaking from the agency’s HQ in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare today, Rachel Pounds, a Save the Children country director said: “If anything is certain in the chaos of Zimbabwe today it is that the cholera outbreak is not under control. According to the latest figures 775 people have died so far. Save the Children knows this is an underestimate – not least because the figures do not include areas in which we work and where we know there have been many unrecorded deaths.

“Also, the percentage of people who are dying having contracted cholera in the first place is way higher than normal for this disease, in some areas. With even the most basic health care on hand, you would expect to see a death rate of only one or two percent. In some areas of Zimbabwe a third of those who have contracted the infection are dying.”

Ms Pounds added that said that the crisis was almost certainly worsening. “Reliable figures are hard to come by, but there is much evidence out there that this crisis is growing, not diminishing, especially as we know there are many people can’t get to cholera centres. Given that this is a disease spread by unclean water and exacerbated by hunger which weakens victims, this problem has clearly not gone away. Water and health services have collapsed and more than half the 10 million population needs emergency food aid. This deadly disease will continue to spread unless we get more money and more resources to halt the contamination and treat victims promptly.”

Save the Children urged the international community to listen to aid agencies working in Zimbabwe and to Zimbabweans themselves living with the horror of hunger and cholera. “It is ordinary families who are bearing the brunt of this crisis, and it is to them the world must listen,” said Ms Pounds. “They should listen to the mothers whose babies have died, and to the children waiting outside health clinics to see if their mothers or fathers will come out alive. That’s the reality here.”

Save the Children’s 200-strong team in Zimbabwe is helping to provide drugs to treat cholera and educating communities how to avoid infection, as well as providing food so that safe cholera treatment camps can be set up to prevent further contamination.

The aid organisation is feeding close to 200,000 people and helping families prepare for the future by distributing seed, small livestock and helping to set up vegetable gardens. Save the Children has worked in Zimbabwe for 25 years.
For more information
Please contact the Save the Children media unit on +44 207 012 6836 / +44 7831 650 409

Notes to Editors

The humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe has now reached unprecedented proportions. A cholera epidemic is already crippling the country, which has killed over 775 people.

Up to 5.1 million people will be in need of food aid to survive by the end of the year, over half the country’s population. One in 10 children in Zimbabwe die before the age of five, although with rocketing rates of malnutrition and disease, the child mortality rate will also rise.

Save the Children’s 200-strong team in Zimbabwe is helping to provide drugs to treat cholera and educating communities how to avoid infection, as well as providing food so that safe cholera treatment camps can be set up to prevent further contamination.

The aid organisation is feeding close to 700,000 people and helping families prepare for the future by distributing seed, small livestock and helping to set up vegetable gardens. Save the Children has worked in Zimbabwe for 25 years.

Source

Zimbabwe’s meltdown in figures
December 18

2008The death toll from a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe has soared to 1,111, the United Nations said on Thursday, adding to pressure for a quick solution to the crisis in the southern African country.

Below are some details of Zimbabwe’s decline in figures:

* INFLATION

Inflation reached 231 million percent a year in July, the latest month for which a figure has been announced. Economists think it is now much higher and say prices are doubling daily.

* GDP

Gross domestic product has fallen every year since 2000, down 10.4 percent in 2003 alone. The IMF estimated that the economy shrank 6.1 percent in 2007.

Per capita GDP was estimated at $200 in 2007, from nearer $900 in 1990. Zimbabwe has the world’s fastest shrinking economy for a country not at war, according to the World Bank.

* INCOME

An estimated 83 percent of the population was living on below $2 a day by 2005. Since then, the situation has only worsened.

* EXPORTS

Exports averaged 33.5 percent of GDP between 1997 and 2001. UBS forecast this would decline to 9.9 percent in 2007.

* AGRICULTURE

Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe now needs to import maize. The U.N. agricultural production index for Zimbabwe fell from nearly 107 in 2000 to just over 74 in 2005.

Official figures show maize production at 800,000 tonnes last season against national demand of 2 million tonnes.

* GOLD

Gold output, which accounts for a third of export earnings, hit a low of 125 kg in October, from a peak of 2,400 kg, as the economic crisis forced mines to close.

* UNEMPLOYMENT

Unemployment is estimated at over 90 percent. Well over 3 million Zimbabweans are thought to have fled, mostly to South Africa, in search of work and food.

* AID

Aid agencies say 5 million people — almost half the population — might need food aid by early 2009.

* IMF ARREARS

Zimbabwe fell into arrears with the International Monetary Fund in 2001. In February 2008, it owed $88 million, of which nearly $80 million has been in arrears for three years or more. While Zimbabwe has averted expulsion, the IMF has suspended financial and technical assistance.

* LIFE EXPECTANCY

Average life expectancy fell from 63 years in 1990 to 40.9 years in 2005, according to U.N. figures.

The mortality rate for children under five rose to 132 deaths per 1,000 in 2005 from 76 deaths in 1990.

* CHOLERA

The official death toll from a cholera epidemic since August is at least 1,111 with over 20,581 infected, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Zimbabwe.

* HIV/AIDS

In 2007, HIV prevalence was 15.6 percent among adults aged 15 to 49 — the fourth highest in the world. It causes the death of about 3,200 people per week in the country of 13.3 million.

HIV prevalence among pregnant women at clinics actually fell from 26 percent in 2002 to 18 in 2006, but some put that down to high mortality and emigration rather than prevention measures.

* ANTHRAX

Save the Children said this month that an anthrax outbreak in the south west had killed three people and could wipe out at least 60,000 livestock.

Source

They left out Sanctions of course. Which has enhanced Zimbabwe’s problem substantially.

Zimbabwe Appeal: First cholera. Now it’s malaria and anthrax

Zimbabwe: Cholera Feeds Off a Perfect Storm

Harare:

All but one of Zimbabwe’s ten provinces have reported fatalities as a result of a cholera epidemic sweeping the country, according to the UN.

The rapid spread of the waterborne disease is attributed to a confluence of events that have created the perfect storm, in which a disease described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “easily treatable”, is thriving.

The collapse of municipal services, such as potable water, refuse collection and sanitation in the past few years, a health service hamstrung by an annual inflation rate that the government has estimated at 231 million percent, and the onset of the rainy season, have all conspired to officially kill about 300 people and infect thousands more.

The eastern province of Manicaland is so far the only place not to have recorded any official cholera deaths. “The cholera outbreak has taken a national dimension. Newer outbreaks are reported from all the provinces,” said a situational report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“The spatial distribution of outbreaks will most likely continue to expand, as well as the number of people infected as the water and sanitation [services] worsen, with severe water shortages, sewage and waste disposal problems reported in most densely populated areas. The starting of the rains further raises alarm levels,” the report said.

Warnings by the UN and other relief agencies that Zimbabwe was facing a humanitarian crisis, on top of acute food shortages – expected to peak in the first quarter of 2009, when nearly half the country’s 12 million population will require emergency food aid – were dismissed by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government.

“The situation is under control,” Deputy Health Minister Edwin Muguti told an international news agency on 27 November, although the government was reportedly appealing to regional governments for body bags.

Efforts to contain the spread of the disease across international borders have failed, with victims seeking assistance from neighbouring countries, particularly the continent’s economic powerhouse, South Africa.

Neighbouring countries feel the effects

About 1,000 victims have received rehydration treatment at the South African border post of Beitbridge in recent weeks, according to local reports.

Barbara Hogan, South Africa’s health minister, told local media on 26 November that an emergency medical response team, including nurses, epidemiologists and medical supplies, had been sent to the Zimbabwe border.

“Given the scale of the outbreak, the weakened health system in Zimbabwe and the extent of the cross-border movement of people … all aspects or our interventions need to be scaled up, and a renewed sense of urgency [is required] to deal with this outbreak,” Hogan told a press briefing in Pretoria.

She dismissed claims by Zimbabwean authorities that the cholera situation was under control, as there was “no recognised government”.

Zambian authorities have put medical services in Southern Province, which borders Zimbabwe, on high alert, health ministry spokesman Canicius Banda told IRIN, although there have been no recorded incidents of cholera in the province.

“We are not leaving anything to chance. We are screening all Zimbabwean nationals crossing into Zambia and, should anyone be found with cholera, our health workers will treat them,” Banda said.

“We have health workers at all the three border posts [with Zimbabwe] … our health workers are very much alert in case of any possible [cholera] outbreak,” he said. “All the [10] districts in the province have epidemic preparedness committees which run all year round; these have also been put on alert.”

Zambia shares three border posts with its southern neighbour at Chirundu, Kariba and Kazungula, in the country’s tourism capital, Livingstone.

“We are also carrying out random inspections of all foodstuffs, such as meat at the market places, to ensure that the products sold are of high standards,” Banda said.

Since the onset of the rainy season, Zambia has recorded about 1,000 cholera cases in its northern regions and the capital, Lusaka; there have been nine confirmed fatalities.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), which advocates the right to care and protection from abuse, told media organisations on 26 November that the country’s cholera death toll was probably much greater as a consequence of the collapse of health services, because many hundreds of deaths were not recorded when people died in their homes.

One in ten fatality rate

ZADHR Chairman Dr Douglas Gwadziro said figures “are pointing towards a 10 percent death rate of those that have been affected by cholera”, although the waterborne intestinal infection causing acute diarrhoea and vomiting, which can cause death from dehydration within 24 hours, could be easily treated with dehydration salts.

Figures are pointing towards a 10 percent death rate of those that have been affected by cholera

According to the state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, China had pledged to supply US$500,000 worth of cholera vaccines “as soon as consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were complete.”

However, when the vaccines arrive, distribution and administration may be complicated by industrial action in the health services. Health workers have defied a government order to return to work, and said they would only comply with government demands in 2009 if concerns about their remuneration were addressed.

Nurses are demanding better salaries to cope with hyperinflation estimated by independent economists to be billions of percent annually, and exemption from the Z$500,000 (US$0.25) daily maximum cash withdrawal from banks because they are “essential” personnel.

The average one-way commuter fare in the capital, Harare, is about Z$1 million (US$0.50), if there is cash available.

Doctors working in the public health services are also refusing to return to work unless the government pegs their salary to a monthly equivalent of US$2,500.

Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the country’s largest union federation, said the growing trend of government to sanction the use of foreign currency by retail outlets prejudiced both government employees and other workers, although less than 20 percent of people were employed in the formal economy.

“It does not make sense for the government to say traders can sell commodities in foreign currency, while it pays its workers in local currency which they cannot get from the bank,” Matombo told IRIN.

“Calls by workers that they should be paid in foreign currency are legitimate because almost all outlets are providing services using the US dollar denomination,” he said.

“If the government acknowledges that its currency is useless by allowing traders to sell in US dollars, why does it want the workers to receive the useless and worthless local currency?”

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

Source

Economic sanctions are a “Weapon of Mass Destruction”

In Zimbabwe Doctors and Nurses beaten by police during peaceful protest

In Zimbabwe Doctors and Nurses beaten by police during peaceful protest

By Tichaona Sibanda

November 18 2008

About one hundred health workers were injured on Tuesday, some of them seriously, after heavily armed riot police baton-charged their peaceful protest march in central Harare.

The health workers from Harare, Parirenyatwa and Chitungwiza hospitals had just embarked on a peaceful procession towards the Ministry of Health offices, to express concern against the total collapse of the health delivery system.

Dr Simba Ndoda, one of the protest organizers and a victim of the police brutality, told us the authorities went to extremes in dealing with the unarmed health workers. He said over one thousand health workers, including doctors, nurses, radiographers, administrators and pharmacists, had gathered at Parirenyatwa hospital for the protest march.

However hundreds of police in riot gear deployed outside the hospital and cordoned off all link roads. They stopped the health workers and unleashed a baton charge, which left dozens of members of the health fraternity injured.

The police flushed out leaders of the protest march and manhandled them before dragging some of them to waiting police vehicles. Unconfirmed reports say a number of protesters were hauled off to different police stations.

‘This was supposed to be a peacful demonstration. We were unarmed. We only had our uniforms and stethoscopes. We tried to reason with the police so that we could proceed with the march but like a lightining bolt they just set upon us, without warning and savagely beat us, inflicting serious injuries on many of our compatriots,’ Dr Ndoda said.

The strike action comes amid the failure of the government to contain the spread of cholera, which has so far killed hundreds of people, due to lack of medicines and drugs. The protesters were also demanding that the government review their salaries, which are not enough to even provide food for a family. ‘Enough is enough’ and ‘Pay health workers properly’ were some of the banners carried.

The country’s health system, once among the best in Africa, collapsed under the weight of the world’s highest inflation rate, officially estimated at 231 million percent, but believed to be over 5 quintillion percent. Most hospitals are now unable to provide even basic medicines.

Dr Ndoda said conditions at state hospitals were ‘traumatising,’ explaining that he had personally seen some of his patients ‘die unnecessarily’ because of lack of drugs, medicines and basic equipment.

‘It is very disturbing. There are no drugs, no equipment and now there is no manpower. The country’s three major referral hospitals have been closed and the government has still not said a word about it.

So how are the ordinary citizens without money going to survive? Asked Dr Ndoda. He said the protest was also meant to show their outrage at the lack of political will by the government to resolve the health crisis.

The Zimbabwe Doctors for Human rights strongly condemned the manhandling and ruthless thrashing of health workers at the hands of the police.A doctor who asked not to be named said it was strange the government had resources to deal with a peaceful march, but was doing nothing about the cholera pandemic that threatened the lives of up to 1.4 million people.

A statement from Doctors without Borders said the whole country is at risk if cholera continues to spread unchecked. Officially state media reports that only 73 people have died of the disease, but independent estimates put the figure closer to one thousand. Many tens of thousands have fallen ill.
In Beitbridge, cholera has killed 36 and 431 have been hospitalised at the border town since last week. Beitbridge medical officer Taikaitei Kanongara said they expected the number of victims to rise.

Source

Police violently disrupt  Protest

November 18, 2008

The police before they charged.

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE – Anti-riot police on Tuesday violently disrupted a protest march by hundreds of disgruntled workers from Harare hospitals as they sought to register with the authorities  their mounting concern over the collapse of Zimbabwe’s health delivery system.

The police blocked a peaceful march by more than 700 hospital workers who attempted to leave Parirenyatwa Hospital to present a petition to the Minister of Health, Dr David Parirenyatwa at his offices at Mukwati Building in the city.

The marchers comprised doctors, nurses, nurse aids and general workers from Harare, Parirenyatwa and Chitungwiza hospitals.

According to Dr Simba Ndoda, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, there were representatives from Chinhoyi and Kadoma hospitals, which have also been forced to close down due to the crisis.

Relating the incident over the phone, Dr Ndoda said the police descended on the marchers in the hospital grounds and assaulted them.

“The police beat us thoroughly,” he said, “They stopped us as we were about to exit the grounds of Parirenyatwa and they beat us up and followed right into the nurses’ homes.

“As I am speaking, we are in hiding at Harare Hospital. We hear police are looking for us.”

He said police had initially informed the protestors not to proceed with the march “for political reasons” as they feared it had potential to grow into fully blown riots by disgruntled Zimbabweans.

Said Dr Ndoda, “We had asked for approval to go ahead with the march but the police denied us permission, citing political reasons. The police said they feared some people would join the march and the situation would become uncontrollable.

“We wanted people to now the real reasons why doctors are on strike. The State media is quick to misinform the public that doctors are insensitive to the plight of ordinary people who are dying in their thousands in hospitals because of the strike by doctors.

“We wanted people to know that while we have genuine reasons to go on strike because of perennially poor working conditions, it is still not possible for us to perform our duties as there is nothing to use.”

According to Dr Ndoda, almost 99 percent of Zimbabweans rely on government hospitals.

Primrose Matambanadzo, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights co-coordinator said Tuesday’s march was more than a strike by hospital workers.

“This was more than a strike,” she said.

“A strike is where you stop going to work for one simple reason. This time we are decrying the total collapse of the whole health system.

“This is an issue where we have all reasons to be concerned. We cannot continue to watch helplessly while patients die in thousands.

“Doctors have been on strike for weeks but nothing is being done to address the situation.”

She said an earlier meeting with the permanent secretary of health to register their concerns did not bear any fruit as nothing was done to address the situation.”

By the time of going to press, there were no official reports of any arrests or casualties.

But baton-wielding anti-riot policemen continued to cordon off the whole Parirenyatwa hospital premises late into the afternoon. Police trucks were patrolling the grounds.

Zimbabwe’s government hospitals stopped operating nearly three weeks ago due to a strike by doctors over poor working conditions.

Critically ill patients have been turned away ever since. An emergency room is in operation at Parirenyatwa hospital.

Mpilo hospital, Bulawayo’s biggest hospital also closed last Wednesday, citing similar reasons.

Thousands of patients are being referred to private hospitals which charge for their services in US dollars.

Efforts to obtain comment from the Minister of Health Dr Parirenyatwa were fruitless.

But government still maintains the health situation in the country is still under control as the country’s central bank is being tasked to procure scarce drugs from abroad.

Source

Half of the Zimbabwe population faces starvation

Sierra Leone: A mission for MSF(Doctors Without Borders)

Sierra Leone: A mission for MSF(Doctors Without Borders)

One the young children at the therapeutic feeding center at the MSF-run Gondama Referral Center in Sierra Leone.

MSF

November 17 2008

By James Blunt

I was a reconnaissance officer in the British army in the Kosovo conflict of 1999. As such, I was the eyes and ears of my commanders, send ahead to give them information about what their main formations might encounter as they advanced. As the Vanguard, we thought we were doing a tough job, but on ­numerous occasions we would run into a hut or shed in the middle of nowhere with a queue of civilians waiting to see the doctor inside.

These doctors and nurses from all over the world were volunteers for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and selflessly risked their safety to bring medical attention to the civilian victims of man-made or natural disasters. In a celebrity-obsessed world, I clearly remember thinking that these are the people who should be celebrated.

Today in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Médecins Sans Frontières teams are working to meet the immense humanitarian needs of hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced by renewed fighting in the North Kivu ­region of Eastern DRC and are living in extremely precarious conditions. The teams are providing water and sanitation services, life saving surgical support, and primary medical care to people injured in the fighting or who have been uprooted and have fled for their lives.

Even at a time of financial crisis, people uprooted by war and conflict and those affected by disease and malnutrition remain just as vulnerable and in need of assistance. That is why it is vital that we maintain support to those in desperate need right now. Doctors Without Borders relies on the generosity of individuals to carry out its essential life-­saving work.

Contributions can be made online at doctorswithoutborders.org

Life with the MSF

Metro followed Médecins Sans Frontières onsite as the organization works to improve the ­conditions for those living in Sierra Leone, one of the worst countries to live in, according to the United Nations.

“This is what I wanted to do for a very long time,” says Monica Thallinger. It’s the 29-year-old Norwegian pediatrician’s first MSF mission.

Monica Thallinger ­enjoys working for Médecins Sans Frontières even though it’s not quite the same as her job back at the hospital in Fredrikstad, Norway: “It’s interesting, but hard work, but it also gives you a lot back.”

Malaria is just one of the diseases she never treats back home, and child mortality at the Gondama Referral Center outside Bo is much higher. Here, two or three children die every day as many parents wait too long to seek help. By then it’s often too late.

“Back home a child dies very seldom, so it’s quite tough,” Thallinger says.

But things have improved since Medecins Sans Frontieres set up their operation in the area. “You can imagine how it would be if we weren’t here.”

Even though many traditional doctors have seen the number of clients dwindle since MSF started providing free health care, it happens that patients come in with two conditions — even though it ought only be one.

“Traditional herbs are very common. Some of them actually work but some have been given herbs for months and are intoxicated when they come in.”

But still, Thallinger sees her job as very rewarding. “You see children become better even if they are very ill when they come in and it’s very rewarding to see most of them become healthy.”

Malnutrition is also a common problem in the area. “I especially remember one patient. I had seen malnourished children before, but she was just skin and bones. But for some reason she kept her head up. She was too unstable for x-rays, but we gave her TB drugs and two weeks later she was smiling. Now she is this healthy child running around and you cannot see she was sick.”

Patrick Ekstrand, Metro Sweden

Prevention part of the plan

A young girl is treated for malaria in MSF’s intensive care unit at the Gondama Referral Centre. Her condition is aggravated by herbs given to her by a traditional doctor. The case is far from unique, says MSF doctor Monica Thallinger.

In Sierra Leone, malaria is the main cause of death among children under five. Statistics compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) explains part of the reason: only 5 per cent of children under five sleep under an insecticide-treated net. The percentage is higher around Bo, where MSF has provided communities with 65,000 insect nets. A survey done last year in the area where MSF operates shows two-thirds of children sleep under nets. Also, under-five mortality decreased by two-thirds in 2007 compared to the previous year.

Malaria is a child killer. Out of an estimated 1 million malaria deaths in Africa, 900,000 occur among children under the age of five. It is also a disease of poverty — and a cause of poverty. The WHO estimates that malaria costs Africa $12 billion US annually. Breaking this evil circle is as easy as breaking the life cycle of malaria. There is no vaccine, but insecticides, mosquito netting and medicines are part of the ­solution.

However, the GDP per capita in Sierra Leone is only $600 US and health expenditure is just over 3 per cent of the GDP — $20 US per person per year — and those without access to adequate health care have to find other ways. Those living around Bo are better off as MSF provides free health care for children and expecting mothers.

Working with community volunteers to fight malaria

MSF volunteer Mohamed Sandi tests a child for malaria.

Mohamed Sandi, a carpenter, rips open a packet of latex gloves, dons them and pricks the finger of Massah, a two-year-old girl with a fever.

A droplet of blood is placed in a paracheck, a malaria test kit similar in appearance to an off-the-shelf pregnancy test. He keeps looking at his battered digital watch. ”She’s positive,” he says after 15 minutes.

By then Massah has forgotten the sting of the lancet and snatches the foil-enclosed strip of anti-malarials from Sandi’s hand as if they were sweets.

Sandi is one of some 140 community malaria volunteers (CMV), trained by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to diagnose and treat malaria. He also knows which patients to refer to a clinic, among them pregnant women.

“Sometimes a person is very weak and at times they are bleeding from their nose and I send them to the clinic,” he says. By the end of next year the number of CMVs will double to nearly 300, as the project has been highly successful.

“Malaria was very plenty here, at times maybe seven or eight per week, but it is better now,” Sandi says. “I’m not a doctor, but people in the village call me doctor.”

Anyone can be a CMV as long as they are committed and literate — writing journals and collecting statistical data is a vital part of the job. In return for their voluntary work, other villagers supply the CMVs with food and help them tend to their gardens.

The most severe cases end up at the Gondama Referral Centre, an MSF-run hospital outside Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone. The GRC provides free health care for children and expecting mothers.

“A Cesarean section at the government hospital is 100 dollars and it’s impossible for the patients to pay,” explains Noemie Larsimont, the Belgian doctor responsible for the GRC.

The world’s forgotten crises, according to MSF

Burma. Humanitarian aid is limited in Burma since the military seized power in 1962. Despite enormous needs there are few relief organizations that work in the country. Only a small amount of the regime’s budget is allocated to health care.
Central African Republic. The political crisis has caused a collapse of the health care system. Poor living conditions cause illnessess.
Colombia. After more than 40 years of civil war with the military more than 3 milion people have fled their homes. Children are forced to be soldiers.
Democratic Republic of Congo. One of the world’s poorest countries. Several hundred thousands have fled their homes the last year. The Congolese have a high prevalence of malnutrition and malaria.
Somalia. The country has lived through chaos for 15 years. But the humanitarian aid has decreased. Violence makes the situation difficult for aid organisations.
Sri Lanka. The conflict between the government and Tamil rebels LTTE has struck hard against the civilian population. Bombings, mines and suicide attempts are everyday events.
Chechnya. The Caucasus is still unstabile after the war against Russia. There is shortage of basic health care.
Zimbabwe. Political instability, inflation and shortage of food has weakened the country. Three million people have fled the country. Prospects for the future are not good, medical staff is leaving the ­country.
Malnutrition. Every year five million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition. Despite new forms of treatment, starvation is still an enormous problem, especially in Africa.
Tuberculosis. Every year 11 million people are infected with tuberculosis. Two million die from the disease. Most victims live in poor countries without sufficient health care.

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More information:

Doctors Without Boarders Providing Assistance in North Kivu, DRC