Government says Zimbabweans living in areas likely to be affected by a heatwave expected to sweep across parts of the country beginning today should take precautionary measures, including drinking a lot of liquids, to avoid serious health complications, especially in infants and the elderly.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa yesterday said Government treated the heatwave seriously as daytime temperatures continued to soar, especially in low-lying areas.
The Meteorological Services Department on Thursday announced that low-lying areas would be hit by a heatwave, with temperatures hovering from 32 degrees Celsius up to 45 degrees Celsius in areas like Kariba, Beitbridge, Binga and others.
Speaking at Ngomahuru Psychiatric Hospital during commemorations to mark World Mental Health Day, Dr Parirenyatwa said the prevailing heatwave had serious health complications if people in affected areas did not exercise caution.
“I have actually received an instruction from the national leadership in Harare that I must start talking about ways of mitigating the effects of the prevailing heat wave here at Ngomahuru because we want to make sure that it does not affect our people,’’ he said.
“Go and spread word that people in areas affected by the prevailing heat wave that they should drink a lot of liquids such as water and try to stay indoors and under shades as much as possible during day time,’’ he said.
Dr Parirenyatwa, however, cautioned that alcohol was not part of the liquids recommended to people in areas affected by the heat wave.
“When we say people should drink lots of liquids we do not mean beer, beer does not help people in heat wave hit areas, we mean proper liquids,’’ he added.
Harare City Council health services director, Dr Prosper Chonzi, said heat waves mainly affect the elderly and children.
“People should not go out unnecessarily. They should stay indoors and be loosely dressed. They should also drink a lot of fluids and avoid unnecessary exercises.
“If you have to go out do not walk long stretches without resting. You must go under a shade and then continue with your journey.”
He urged those with swimming pools to use them but warned against going under direct heat after swimming.
Dr Chonzi said those who developed symptoms of exhaustion should immediately visit the hospital and get rehydrated.
“People should postpone activities and carry them out after the heat wave, which usually take two or three days in Southern Africa,” he said.
Turning to the World Mental Health Day, Dr Parirenyatwa said over 450 million people experienced mental health problems globally every year.
He said there were about 2 million deaths that were attributable to mental disorders every year while 90 percent of suicides worldwide were linked to the same problem.
Dr Parirenyatwa called for an end to stigma and discrimination against people with mental disorders who ended up finding solace in hospitals and other psychiatric institutions.
“People with mental disorders face a number of challenges in obtaining the help they need and stigma and discrimination are significant barriers to obtaining good mental health care. People with mentalillness are rejected by society due to stigma to mental illness,’’said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He paid tribute to institutions that looked after mental patients like Ngomahuru saying Government would soon revise upwards their mental health allowance of $20 per month.
“Considering the work that nurses and other staff who deal with mental patients do every day, I feel that the monthly allowance that they receive is too little and surely I promise that we will do something about it,’’he added.
Speaking at the same event prominent legal practitioner and Zanu PF Masvingo provincial secretary for Legal Affairs Cde Teddy Muzoroza, gave a chilling testimony of the troubles faced by mental health patients saying Government should increase budgetary allocations to institutions that looked after them.
Dr Parirenyatwa handed over various goodies to Ngomahuru Hospital that were donated to help mental patients by companies from Masvingo province and beyond.