While Human Rights Doctors argue it can’t be less than 800….
Zimbabwe Government puts cholera deaths at 425
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That Zimbabwe is facing a major health crisis with the recent outbreak of cholera is no secret. The water borne disease has claimed many lives and critics argue the cause is a breakdown in most urban sanitation facilities- a direct consequence of the current economic meltdown. Government also repeatedily blame Western backed economic sanctions on the crisis, a charge western countries deny, instead blaming Mugabe’s regime of destroying the country’s economy through policy inconsistency. What is worrisome however is that when everybody, from the government itself, Non-Governmental Organisations and well wishers are putting notable efforts to contain the epidemic, conflicting statistics on the death toll from the disease have a potential to undermine the amount of input needed to address the health catastrophe.
Government through the Health ministry has been blamed by independent human rights associations of hiding the actual casualties from cholera since the scourge’s outbreak in August. The health ministry, ontheother hand charges that some sections of the media are reporting false figures.
Health Minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa is quoted in this week’s government controlled The Sunday Mail assuring the nation that his ministry is on “high alert” to “manage the cholera outbreak that has claimed 425 people since the outbreak in August.”
But a human rights doctors association, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) dispute government figures saying about one in every 10 people who contracted the disease died.
ZADHR Chairman, Dr Douglas Gwatidzo told an independent Sunday paper, The Standard that if government figures are to be considered, then the number of people who have succumbed to the epidemic surpass 800.
“The problem with trying to cover up statistics and downplaying a situation is that you end up making estimates that don’t make sense.
“If we are saying 8,700 cases (government reported Sunday there are now 11, 071 suspected cases) have been reported countrywide, how can we then say that 383 (now put at 425 by government) people have died of cholera when we are saying at the same time, one in every 10 cholera cases has resulted in death?”
Dr Gwatidzo said determining the actual number of cholera deaths is difficult because “of the information blackout” in the early days of the outbreak but that with the situation on the ground “the deaths cannot be anything less than 800” but “fast approaching 1,000.”
But Parirenyatwa retaliated through government media saying he is “very disappointed by some certain sections of the media” reporting that figures his ministry are releasing “are only a tenth of the situation on the ground.” “As the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, I phone all the country’s 10 provinces every day to get the correct figures from professional doctors who have no reason to lie. “There is no reason whatsoever to tell mistruths about what I get from the provinces. We give out correct figures available to us. I have also gone around all the provinces to assess the situation. These reports are coming from malicious people who claim to be doctors. Where are they getting the figures from?”
But in a clear sign of government statistics inconsistence, the government controlled The Herald quotes the Midlands province Provincial Civic Protection Unit officer, Mr. Thompson Siziba saying Thursday that ‘fifteen more people have died from cholera” in the province “taking the death toll to 28.”
Parirenyatwa yesterday however said by 28 November Midlands had “21 fatalities.”
Meanwhile a group of residents from Chitungwiza, a town outside the capital Harare, where the origin of the first cholera outbreak occurred sued a government run-department responsible for supplying water, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority for failing to provide sufficient and clean water in the face of cholera deaths.
In an application filed Friday in the High Court, the chairperson of the Chitungwiza Residents and Ratepayers Association, Mr. Arthur Taderera said in part of the affidavit, “Due to their lack of diligence and constant supplies of clean water to my place of residence, diseases like cholera surfaced and people are dying.”