Marange ‘real life heroes’ give their lives to work on the frontline in fighting cholera

Garira is among community volunteers who have been trained under a cholera awareness programme facilitated by the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

For Cecilia Garira the cholera outbreak in her area has become a “disaster like no other” she has ever seen.

Every day she goes into the red zone to treat patients.

Garira of Chipiro village in Bocha, Marange is among humanitarian workers on the frontlines of fighting cholera in their communities.

Marange is among several areas in the country grappling with the diarrhoeal disease.

As of last Wednesday 19 cases of cholera were recorded in Mutare rural district to which Marange falls under and the cases could be higher given that the majority of villagers in the area are of the apostolic sect who do not seek medical help.

To date, the country has recorded 217 deaths linked to cholera from 12 533 cases, according to the Health ministry.

“Every day I am called to attend to a case of cholera in the neighbourhood and I oblige,” she said.

“Sometimes these people would not be having any remedy like oral rehydration solution.

“If you ask them to provide sugar and salt, they tell you that they don’t have any.”

Garira said it’s not a walk in the park attending and helping patients in the area.

“At times we also face challenges in the execution of our duties because we are in an apostolic sect community and many people do not believe in what we bring to them,” she said.

“However, through awareness programmes and peer-led intervention, the community is embracing our programmes.”

Garira said the community was into unorthodox healing practices to remedy those with severe cholera.

“Through awareness programmes, I think we are almost there,” she said.

“We have been trying to explain to them that cholera is all about losing fluids in the body and the only remedy is to replenish the body with the fluids.

“It’s work in progress.”

Garira is among community volunteers who have been trained under a cholera awareness programme facilitated by the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

The programme is being implemented in Beitbridge and Gwanda districts in Matabeleland South province as well as in Mutare Rural, Mutare Urban and Chimanimani districts in Manicaland province.

“The cholera outbreak has led to a widespread public health emergency, necessitating immediate intervention to prevent further transmission and mitigate the impact on affected communities,” said ZRCS secretary-general Elias Hwenga.

“The outbreak presents challenges such as the rapid spread of the cholera virus, increased morbidity and mortality rates, and strained healthcare facilities.

“The risk of transmission to neighbouring countries adds a complex dimension to the crisis, necessitating not only immediate containment measures but also cross-border coordination.

“The project focuses on critical areas, including the prevention and control of the cholera spread, improved case management, and the enhancement of water and sanitation facilities.

“The appeal also underscores the importance of community engagement, accountability and inclusivity in providing a holistic response to the diverse needs of affected communities.”

In a bid to get buy-in and to have the community embrace the intervention programmes, ZRCS has joined forces with partners in setting up oral rehydration points in the community.

Sixty-eight-year-old Jane Mary Kupemba, who is among volunteers and health workers manning an oral rehydration point at Nyangani village in ward 16 explains how risky their task is.

“Every morning we sweep the floor and take out supplies provided by the Red Cross, an oral rehydration solution (salt and sugar solution) as well as chlorine solutions to mix with water to disinfect cups and surfaces and for hand hygiene,” she said.

“On average, we are attending to four people a day and we haven’t received any severe cases since this point was opened a few days ago.

“It’s risky on our part, but we have volunteered to do the task.

“The biggest challenge that we face is that some people resist the oral rehydration solution, but we are now mixing the sugar and salt solution in their presence and they now understand.”

At the oral rehydration points villagers with cholera symptoms easily access treatment for rehydration and those with more severe cases are quickly referred to the nearest cholera treatment centre.

“The setting up of oral rehydration points in Marange is helping increase chances of quick recovery and reduces cholera deaths,” Hwenga said.

“While cholera treatment units and cholera treatment centres may be too far for people to reach them quickly, oral rehydration points are located within communities and offer easy access to basic screening and rehydration.”

For Garira, who is regarded as a “real life champion” in her community, oral rehydration points could be the panacea to the challenges they face.

“I asked the Red Cross to set up an oral rehydration point at my home knowingly that it would help my community,” Garira said.

“I believe my community would embrace the idea and many would come regardless of religious affiliation.

“I am a member of the apostolic sect, but I believe we also need to practice basic hygiene habits.”

Nyangani village head Willard Nyangani embraced intervention programmes being implemented in his community, but lamented lack of clean water.

“We welcome these programmes, but the biggest challenge is that we do not have proper sanitation facilities and sources of safe water,” he said.

“The only borehole in the village is far away and villagers end up fetching water from the ‘polluted’ Save River.

“We appeal to authorities to address the water situation in the area.”

The traditional leader hailed community volunteers and health workers who have joined forces with development partners in fighting cholera in the area.

“They are sacrificing their lives to help others and this is highly commendable,” Nyangani said.

“It’s risky to attend to someone with cholera, but these community champions are our heroes and we salute them.”

Health and Child Care minister Douglas Mombeshora during his recent tour of Manicaland province said there was need to increase community engagement to reduce the rate of infection in communities and appreciated the support from various partners.

Mombeshora said the government was working to increase borehole coverage in Manicaland province to improve availability of fresh water.

“We are thankful for all the organisations helping with the outbreak response,” he said.

“We recently received equipment from WHO and we need to identify places where these are needed the most so that we distribute them and help fight the outbreak.”

As of last week ZRCS had set up oral rehydration points in Nyangani village, Chakaza business centre, Chipiro village as well as Farikayi village in Chiadzwa.

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