WHO and Zimbabwe Join Forces To Combat Cholera


By: Modupe Adeniyi. Freelance Health Reporter

Zimbabwe and WHO join forces to combat cholera

Zimbabwe and WHO join forces to combat cholera



MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2024: In a remarkable effort to combat the ongoing cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, the World Health Organization (WHO) has joined forces with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, spearheading a comprehensive training program that has significantly boosted the country's diagnostic capabilities. This collaborative initiative has not only addressed critical staff shortages but also empowered healthcare workers with the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively identify and respond to cholera cases.


The training program which focused on task-shifting, saw a staggering 986 nurses trained in administering and interpreting antigen Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs). This strategic move alleviated the burden on rural health centers where staffing shortages had previously hindered timely testing and diagnosis. Additionally, 44 laboratory personnel at provincial and district levels received specialized training in cholera culture testing further strengthening Zimbabwe's diagnostic capacity.


Prior to the training initiative, testing capabilities were severely limited, with only 2,090 antigen RDTs and 2,250 culture tests conducted across 10 health centers between February 2023 and January 18, 2024. However, following the training, the number of antigen RDT tests skyrocketed to 9,853, reflecting an astonishing 371% increase. Culture tests also saw a significant rise, reaching 6,386, an impressive 184% increase. This exponential growth in testing accessibility at rural health centers has been a game-changer, enabling early detection, quicker diagnosis and prompt treatment, ultimately improving patient outcomes and curbing the spread of the disease.


The success of this program is attributed to the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders, including UNICEF, Higher Life Foundation, JHPIEGO, World Vision International and the WHO, with the Ministry of Health and Child Care leading the charge. Funding for the training activities came from the Health Resilience Fund (HRF), the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, and the United States Department of State (USDOS), reflecting the global commitment to addressing this public health crisis.


Nurses and laboratory personnel who participated in the training have expressed their gratitude for the comprehensive and timely nature of the program. One nurse from Chiredzi District Hospital lauded the training's emphasis on proper test administration and interpretation while Marakia Manjengwa, a medical laboratory scientist, highlighted the valuable knowledge gained on laboratory identification of cholera and the importance of timely reporting for national interventions.


As Zimbabwe continues to grapple with the cholera outbreak albeit on a downward trend, the WHO remains committed to strengthening the country's laboratory response. In addition to supporting trainings and financial contributions for transportation costs, the WHO provides on-site support and data harmonization efforts ensuring accurate data collection at the ward level.


Dr. Muchaneta Mugabe, WHO Laboratory Officer, expressed confidence in the acquired knowledge and skills stating, "These efforts would significantly enhance diagnostic services, leading to earlier case detection, improved case management and strengthened surveillance activities."


Zimbabwe's fight against cholera is a testament to the power of collaboration, capacity building and unwavering determination. By equipping healthcare workers with the necessary tools and knowledge, this initiative has not only bolstered the country's response to the current outbreak but has also fortified its preparedness for future pandemics.



Source: World Health Organization Newsroom


Related: Cholera in the African setting 



Published: April 23, 2024

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