President calls for Sadc unity to combat cholera

Wallace Ruzvidzo Herald Reporter

President Mnangagwa has emphasised the need for unity and collaborative efforts within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to combat the spread of cholera.

The call comes in the wake of cholera outbreaks reported in five SADC countries, namely Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia, accounting for 73 percent of all cases recorded on the African continent.

To beat back the water-borne disease and find lasting solutions, SADC yesterday convened a virtual extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government which focused mainly on fighting cholera.

Speaking during the summit, President Mnangagwa said there was a need for the regional bloc to collectively expedite the implementation of measures to tame the epidemic.

On its part, he said Zimbabwe was doing its level best to fight the scourge, having already secured the medication and vaccines.

“Going forward, we must collectively scale up the implementation of key measures to tackle the cholera outbreak and climate-related health challenges.

“The establishment of the Africa Elimination of Cholera Epidemics Coordination Task Force should be prioritised. The ability to locally produce cholera and other vaccines remains a panacea to our response to this cholera epidemic and future health challenges.

“In unity of purpose and through sustained collaborative efforts, we can reverse and combat the spread of cholera,” he said.

The President said it was important that SADC bolsters the coordination and implementation of transboundary interventions as this would go a long way in keeping cholera at bay.

Towards that end, he said Zimbabwe established a Multi-Sectoral Cholera Elimination Roadmap 2018-2028 which included the country’s plans to upgrade its water and sewer reticulation systems, as the long-term solution to combating the disease.

“While we take note of existing response initiatives and efforts, it is of paramount importance that we bolster the coordination and implementation of our comprehensive transboundary interventions. These should be alive to the need for integrating broad aspects of climate change resilience, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene as well as Disaster Risk Reduction.

“In the case of Zimbabwe, we developed a Multi-Sectoral Cholera Elimination Roadmap 2018-2028 which spells out a clear pathway for cholera surveillance, detection control, and elimination. This roadmap includes a detailed plan to revamp water and reticulation systems and increase sanitation coverage,” he said.

President Mnangagwa also apprised SADC Heads of State on the distribution of oral cholera vaccines, which is currently underway countrywide, with hotspots designated as priority areas.

As part of mitigatory and response measures, he said Zimbabwe adopted a Whole-of-Government and Society approach.

“Additionally, we have activated Incident Management Systems and set up Oral Rehydration Points as mitigation strategies. The adoption of the Whole of Government and Society approach has seen the setting up of Inter-Ministerial Committees with the involvement of grassroots communities in all public health programmes, including in the fight against Cholera.

“To date, an all-encompassing campaign of administering an Oral Cholera Vaccine across the country is underway, with a greater focus on Cholera hotspot areas,” he said.

The President went on to urge member states to increase investments in climate change as well as the enforcement of environmental protocols to safeguard human beings.

He said the ramping up of efforts to strengthen national and cross-border disease surveillance is also a priority.

“Equally, aspects to do with underlying drivers must be addressed. Increasing investments on research and analysis of the climate change impact on health as well as enforcement of environmental protocols must also remain a priority.

“The importance of strengthening national and cross border disease surveillance, towards improving the detection, prevention and limit of the spread of cholera cannot be overemphasised,” he said.

President Mnangagwa expressed gratitude to the International Coordination Group on Vaccine Provision for the allocation it gave Zimbabwe while also commending SADC for initiating strategies to ensure the epidemic is decisively dealt with.

“The Government of Zimbabwe acknowledges the allocation of vaccines from the International Coordination Group on Vaccine Provision. I express my utmost gratitude to cooperating partners for their invaluable support.

The President also conveyed his heartfelt condolences for the lives that have been lost to cholera thus far.

“I wish to commend you my dear brother, Your Excellency President Joao Lourenco for hosting this important meeting at a critical time when our region is facing a cholera epidemic.

“The statistics tabled before us today are of grave concern, demonstrating the multipronged nature of human and security threats besieging our region.

“May I express my heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy for the loss of life as a result of the current outbreak,” said the Head of State.

Angolan President and SADC Chairperson President Joao Lourenco implored member states to fight the cholera outbreak with the same ferocity as during the height of the HIV and Covid-19 pandemics.

“Throughout the years, SADC has faced major challenges that we were able to overcome thanks to our unity and action.

“We must be ready to face and overcome the challenges that we face considering that prevention is the key to the problem therefore we must commit ourselves to strengthen our health systems,” he said.

SADC’s executive secretary Elias Magosi said it was incumbent upon all citizens in the region to put their hands on the wheel in the fight against cholera.

“The cholera is deeply concerning and therefore calls for regional solidarity and strengthened regional collaboration,” he said.

In an interview, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora, who also attended the meeting revealed that Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, whose country has been hardest by the epidemic, was made the SADC champion of cholera.

“One of the resolutions that was taken was to support the selection of a champion of cholera in the region and the President of Zambia Hakainde Hichilema has been selected as the champion of cholera prevention in the region,” he said.

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