January 22, 2009

Epidemic continues to spread in rural areas and remains serious in Harare

Some 207 new admissions to a cholera treatment center (CTC) near the Zimbabwean capital Harare were received in a 24-hour period yesterday.

A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team at the CTC in the urban area of Kadoma saw the number of patients increase to 368 by the end of the day, January 21.

This number outstripped capacity and MSF is currently assessing new sites for an additional CTC.

Earlier this week, MSF sent medical supplies for the treatment of 1,000 severe cholera cases, along with 50 cholera beds, 50 buckets, and 8,000 packets of oral rehydration salts from UNICEF. More MSF medical supplies for the treatment of 600 severe cases were sent on January 22. One medical team will be stationed permanently in Kadoma to support the cholera response.

With the exception of the surge of cases in Kadoma, the cholera epidemic recently has been spreading mainly in rural areas of Zimbabwe. The numbers of new cases have been decreasing in Harare, although the numbers remain significant.

The spread of the disease in rural areas is a serious concern because some of these places previously had very low or no cases of cholera. As is often seen in rural outbreaks, deaths occur before an intervention can start, and MSF is concerned that the peak has not yet been reached in many of these areas.

In the suburbs, the lack of sanitation services continues to be a problem and could result in higher case numbers again, as was seen in November and December 2008.

Cholera cases are also being found in neighboring countries and MSF is responding as needed. It is believed that these cases are the result of the normal cholera season and are not related to Zimbabwe.

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