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Our cholera treatment support is helping

The cholera that has been affecting so many parts of Zimbabwe has affected the districts in which Save the Children works in the Zambezi Valley.

I visited one cholera treatment centre this week to look at how the Save the Children support is being used and to identify how we could do more. This clinic, which is a three and half hour drive from the nearest town, serves a massive area. Many people have to walk over 30 kilometres to reach it, which is obviously not possible when seriously ill. This means that many of the cases and deaths were happening in the villages and the health workers were having to go out into the community to visit patients at home.

This centre was set up in early January and when I was there two weeks ago the situation appeared to be chaotic. The health team had no food, no water, no telephones or any other form of communication. This makes it difficult even for the most experienced people to deal with such a crisis, but this team had little experience in dealing with an outbreak of cholera. And were unclear how to manage the situation. They asked Save the Children to support them with materials and advice.

We responded to this by sending and experience doctor who helped the health workers set up a well organised treatment centre. We, and other organisations, have provided the centre with medicines, water treatment tables, food and beds for the patients and fuel so that the health workers can get out on their motorcycles and visit people in the villages.

This week the situation looked under control. Patients are still coming, many being brought by relatives in wheel barrows or being carried. I saw one woman carrying her sick child on her back. She told me she had walked for 5 hours. Thankfully, this child recovered quickly when given fluids and medicines. The centre staff were able to give the mother a meal. She said that it was the first proper meal she had had for more than a week.

The staff at the centre looked tired but were determined to do a good job. The next stage is to train the village health workers, volunteers who are given some training and advise their community on how to prevent common illnesses. Save the Children and the district health team will be running some training for them so that they can raise awareness on cholera prevention in their villages. This will start in the next few days.

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