HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has started vaccinating people living in urban areas to contain the worst cholera outbreak to hit the country in a decade which has left 49 people dead and infected thousands more.
The southern African nation of more than 13 million people last month appealed locally for help to raise $35 million to buy vaccines and medicines and to repair water and sewer pipes.
Some 1.4 million will be vaccinated, starting with those in the most densely populated areas.
The outbreak of the water borne disease has exposed the lack of maintenance of the country’s infrastructure.
Zimbabwe’s worst cholera outbreak occurred in 2008 during the height of the economic crisis, leaving more than 4,000 dead and infecting another 40,000.
During the current outbreak, more than 10,000 people have been infected by cholera but there were no new deaths reported in the past week, which the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday was a sign that the disease was being brought under control.
Vaccinations were initially being given in urban areas where outbreaks have occurred or where there is a high risk of an outbreak, the government said.
In the Glenview suburb of Harare, the epicenter of the current outbreak, health officials were administering doses of the vaccine to school children and adults at clinics. There are about 1.5 million people living in the city which draws water from one lake.
“They should also go to the rural areas giving these doses, not only here, so that this disease does not affect the whole country,” Susan Mpofu told Reuters TV after receiving her cholera vaccine together with her daughter.
World Health Organisation regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement the vaccine, “along with other efforts will help keep the current outbreak in check and may prevent it from spreading further into the country and becoming more difficult to control.”
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)