HARARE, Zimbabwe – Deep grief is evident in Nigel Chigudu's eyes. In a tortured voice, he slowly recounts the harrowing tragedy that saw him lose five siblings in five hours to the cholera epidemic that has been sweeping across Zimbabwe.
“They started vomiting and had serious diarrhea,” recalls Nigel, 15. “The youngest, Gamu, was 14 months old, and Lameck was 12 years old. It was in the middle of the night; I could not take them anywhere. I just watched them die.” (UNICEF Zimbabwe/Singizi)
Though Cholera is endemic to Zimbabwe, epidemic proportions now evidence that this disease has claimed at least 3,000 lives since August last year. However, this figure is almost certainly too low, as it only includes cases of people who attempted to seek medical care. Many people in rural areas cannot make it to help in time.
Of course not everything can be blamed on disease or a lack of clean water. Cholera is just one symptom of the greater cause. Sadly, the under-nourishment of many people makes the risk of death a life threatening certainty. This largely preventable and treatable disease has been allowed to run rampant because society in this nation has already crumbled.
One Zimbabwean national said, “The situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated so much. The government is desperate to control a situation they have failed dismally to control.”
“I just got back from Zimbabwe. I was attending my niece's wedding. Just before they cut the cake, a team from the health department had to come in and do a presentation on cholera prevention. It was a sobering moment, reminding everyone how death was so close if we were not careful.”
Zimbabwe is a nation in turmoil and that turmoil has no easy answer. The governmental leaders continue their discussions and we hope and pray that one day agreement will be reached. Meanwhile people suffer needlessly, a disease that in other countries is easily treatable. Humanitarian organizations are present, but their resources are stretched and they cry out for reinforcements. Pray that more medical teams will go to help, and for restoration to begin in this land once called "the breadbasket of Africa".