To improve capacities for adequate prevention, readiness, early detection and timely response to cholera at community level, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) conducted a cholera tabletop simulation exercise from 12-14 April 2023. The table-top simulation exercise held in Kadoma, will contribute towards closing the gaps encountered by health workers in preparing for response to outbreaks in Zimbabwe. It provided a platform to develop, assess and test functional capabilities of emergency systems, procedures and mechanisms as well as update provincial emergency and response plans.
The meeting was attended by representatives from various government departments including the Department of Civil Protection, Local Authorities such as Harare City and Provincial Rapid Response Teams. Other partners include Higher Life Foundation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), United States Centre for Disease Control (US CDC),UNICEF, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and World Vision.
“This exercise is one of the efforts to strengthen cholera response and address gaps and strengthen the readiness in high-risk cholera countries to quickly and effectively detect and respond to cholera, this inequity disease that can be easily prevented,” said MoHCC Epidemiology and Disease Control Director Dr Rudo Chikodzore.
Key issues highlighted include the importance of the multisectoral collaboration, community engagement; and access to safe water and adequate sanitation in preventing and managing cholera outbreaks. Close coordination between ministries and government departments was also highlighted as critical to ensure all aspect of preparedness and response are addressed, including an efficient and quick process for reallocating national budgets to facilitate pandemic response.
“Cholera elimination requires multisectoral coordination incorporating all social service interventions through a strengthened Primary Health Care (PHC) platform, including surveillance, prevention and treatment/care at community level, lifesaving curative services at facility level, improved Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at household level, nutrition interventions, and linkages with related social services like education and protection services,” UNICEF Zimbabwe Health Manager Dr Jonas Mwale.
WHO, in collaboration with Higher Life Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières and UNICEF continues to prioritize support to the Government of Zimbabwe on revitalization of the PHC platforms, capacity building for health workers amongst other key activities aimed at improving cholera outbreak response.
“The simulation exercise went beyond building capacities for health workers which was one of the key issues but allowed us to learn from experiences from past outbreaks for overall improvement of future outbreaks not just for cholera,” said WHO Emergencies Team Lead Dr Lincoln Charimari.
Cholera remains one of the significant public health emergencies in Southern Africa Region. Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia are currently grappling with one of the worst outbreaks of Cholera first reported in 2022. The recent outbreak of cholera in Zimbabwe was first recorded on the 12 February 2023 with cases now reported in eight out of the ten provinces. As at 13 April 2023, 436 suspected cholera cases had been reported, two (2) laboratory confirmed deaths, seven (7) suspected deaths and 88 confirmed cases.
A readiness assessment carried out in January 2023 showed that insufficient preparedness, limited resources and delays in declaration and notification and health workers not trained in Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) as areas that needed attention in preparing for an outbreak of cholera.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organzation (WHO) – Zimbabwe.