Mashonaland West Bureau
ZIMBABWEANS travelling to Zambia through Chirundu Border Post have described as inhumane the cholera screening process introduced by Zambian authorities at the one-stop-border post that involves making people take laxatives.
Passengers travelling by bus are reportedly being given laxatives to induce bowel movement to produce stool that is then tested for cholera.
Ministry of Health and Child Care officials in Mashonaland West yesterday indicated that the matter had been reported to the highest offices.
The Zambian government yesterday announced that the capital city — Lusaka — had recorded 21 cases of cholera without any fatalities.
The testing programme using laxatives has also reportedly caused congestion at the border.
Mashonaland West provincial medical director Dr Wenceslaus Nyamayaro confirmed receiving similar reports from officials at Chirundu Border Post.
“We have received the reports of travellers being screened at the border post and we have engaged our permanent secretary (Dr Gerald Gwinji) on the matter,” Dr Nyamayaro said.
“The issue of people being given tablets to trigger bowel movement is a bit disturbing because we know that we cannot control cholera by shutting down the border, but to encourage hygiene among our people.”
He said Zambia had a cholera outbreak whose epicentre was in Lusaka that claimed more than 100 lives and affected over 5 000 people, but travellers from that country were not subjected to that treatment.
According to sources at Chirundu, the screening involved people being asked to take the laxative, a doxycycline preventive tablet while being asked to wash their hands.
“The situation was particularly pathetic on Monday morning when members of an apostolic sect were asked to take the tablet that caused them to visit the toilet.
“People lined up intending to relieve themselves at the same time. This is inhuman.”
No sample tested positive for the disease.
Health and Child Care provincial health promotion officer Mr George Kambondo said Government had since activated a hotline that can be used to report any health matters and complaints.
“We are appealing to all the people who may have any health complaints to call on PMD Mashonaland West Hotline 0771489415,” he said.
Mr Kambondo said there was no reason for Zambian immigration officials to react in the manner they did as rapid response teams were on high cholera alert.
“All the health workers at village level and stakeholders have been sensitised on the cholera outbreak in the province.
“The teams composed of provincial health executives from the ministry are conducting routine inspections at food outlets while illegal cooking stations have been closed,” he said.
Mr Kambondo said the Chirundu Local Board had been engaged to attend to potential hazards that may trigger an outbreak.
Further, he said, Government was reviewing water rationing programmes in some areas where water was only available at midnight.
Police details are also confiscating fish from vendors coming from Harare to Chinhoyi and other areas in the province at roadblocks.
A multi-stakeholder taskforce has been set up in Chirundu to collaborate with Zambian authorities to spearhead cholera prevention initiatives.
The taskforce comprises Government departments, Chirundu Local Board and non-governmental organisations operating in the border town.
Local board secretary Mr Wilson Gunhe said clean-up campaigns were being conducted in the border town among other efforts to eliminate chances of an outbreak.
“We meet regularly with our Zambian counterparts because of the high volumes of people that come to the border town.
“We have people coming from as far as the Democratic Republic of Congo where there is an Ebola outbreak, Tanzania and other countries in the region. We are always on alert,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Government of Zambia yesterday issued a statement indicating that Lusaka district had recorded 21 new cases of cholera.
“There are no cholera deaths recorded. All patients are currently under treatment. Several measures will be undertaken in an effort to help safeguard lives and prevent further spread of this deadly disease.”
Some of the measures announced included closure of schools and universities in the affected areas while government sale of fresh foods, including meat, chicken and fish on streets, will be banned.
Several restaurants and other sites that will be found contaminated will be closed until further notice, the statement said.