December 3 2008

No cholera infections amongst SOS children in Zimbabwe

03/12/2008 - SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe reports that no children living in any of the three villages have shown any signs of infection by cholera. Sadly, four families partnering with the family strengthening programme in Harare have lost adult members to the disease.

Gary Birditt, director of SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe, confirmed this afternoon that none of the children living in the three SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe have suffered from cholera during the recent outbreak in Zimbabwe.

Although all three villages, in Waterfalls a suburb of Harare, Bindura and Bulawayo are located in areas that have seen cases of cholera, no children living in the villages have yet shown any symptoms.

Gary Birditt added "in all three villages, the village nurse has conducted awareness sessions with SOS mothers and youths. All villages have adequate supplies of requirements for making basic oral rehydration solution and mothers are aware of the correct proportions of sugar, salt and clean water. Bearing in mind the lack of medical infrastructure available at the moment in Zimbabwe, we have the resources available that should any of the children become ill with cholera we can treat all but the most extreme and acute cases within the village. Should we need to call on further help, we have made provisions with local private hospitals for assistance and they have suitable supplies of the recommended antibiotics and rehydration drips."

SOS mothers and co-workers are treating all water as potentially contaminated and are vigorously boiling it before use, or are treating it with the recommended chemicals.

The SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools and SOS Kindergartens are now closed for the school holidays and are not due to open before the middle of January. Each school has already carried out awareness campaigns amongst teachers and pupils and teachers in the kindergartens received particularly detailed information as younger children are even more susceptible to the acute dehydration caused by diarrhoea which is the main symptom of the disease.

The SOS Social Centre catchment areas have more complex problems relating to the cholera outbreak. In a document released by the World Health Organisation on 2 December, they state that half of the total cases reported have been from Budiriro, a suburb of Harare, one of the deprived and densely populated areas that the SOS family strengthening programme is active in. Sadly, Isiah Sango, one of the social workers involved with the family strengthening programme says that four adults who were beneficiaries of the programme have already died from cholera.

Poor municipal water supply, un-treated sewage, lack of electricity, the collapse of medical infrastructure and over-crowding have all meant that the containment of cholera has been extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible.

Mr Justine Lungu, regional family strengthening programme advisor, visited Budiriro on 27 November and noted that co-workers had been assisting the Ministry of Health and other partners in distributing information on prevention and treatment of cholera. However he also noted that even if people knew the methods of prevention and treatment, they simply did not have the basic of clean water which is necessary.

As Gary Birditt makes clear, "SOS Children's Villages is not a player in the field of public health, nor an expert in water sanitation. Our mandate and mission is to partner with the State to support or to create families for children who, without our intervention, would be homeless. However, the health of the children who we are in contact with, their physical well being and development is a big issue for us and this is even more important during difficult times such as these."