Zimbabwe initiated a cholera vaccination campaign to curb a growing outbreak that the government reported has claimed over 400 lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) mentioned that the country received an initial shipment of nearly 900,000 vaccines last week.
Initial doses were administered by government officials in Kuwadzana, a suburb of Harare, the capital and one of the severely affected areas.
“In recent weeks, we have witnessed a surge in the numbers of cholera cases attributable in part to the onset of the rain and flooding and increased population movement during the festive season,” Health Minister Douglas Mombeshora said.
Cholera is contracted from bacteria generally transmitted through contaminated food or water; outbreaks occur regularly in Zimbabwean cities where supplies of drinking water and sanitation facilities are erratic and infrastructure has collapsed due to years of neglect.
Zimbabwe has been battling the current outbreak since February last year; it has reported more than 20,000 suspected cases and 400 deaths, of which laboratory tests have confirmed 71.
In November, Harare declared a state of emergency, with some officials drawing comparisons with 2008, when cholera claimed at least 4,000 lives in the country and at least 100,000 people fell ill.
The current vaccination campaign targets 2.3 million people, with more doses expected to arrive next week, the WHO said.
“People are dying,” Kuwadzana resident Patience Kuzhazha, 40, told Agence France-Presse – (AFP) upon receiving a dose.
“I took it upon myself to get vaccinated to encourage others to do the same safely.”
The WHO has previously expressed concern over the growing number of cholera cases around the world in recent years, with Africa bearing the brunt.