Zimbabwe: UN, Sadc teams arrive
Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2008
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December 09, 2008
ZIMBABWE'S request for assistance to fight the cholera epidemic has paid off with the United Nations responding at the highest level by dispatching a five-member team of health experts from Geneva, while Sadc sent another five-member emergency team.
Both teams arrived in the country yesterday.
The two teams are expected to give technical and logistical support to the Government using existing structures at a time some Western countries were gearing to politicise the outbreak to abet aggression by claiming structures of assistance in Zimbabwe had collapsed.
The WHO team – comprising head of delegation Dr Eric Laroche, director of operational platform Dr Dominique Legros, communication officer Mr Paul Garwood, logistician Mr Fred Urlep, water epidemiologist Dr Francesco Checchi – is expected to complement the existing WHO staff already in the country.
The Sadc team comprises Dr Antonica Hembe, Mr Joseph Mthethwa, Mr Ityai Muvandi, Mr Phera Ramoei and Dr Vonai Teveredzi.
The team arrives at a time Sadc has indicated that donor assistance to Zimbabwe should be Sadc-led.
Dr Laroche said the WHO team was in Zimbabwe to assist the Government through case investigation data management, surveillance and implementation of world guidelines in treating the disease.
"Our team will be in Zimbabwe, as long as it is required, to support the local WHO team control and stick to the guidelines of treating and registering patients among others. We are purely a technical team that will offer technical, logistical and financial support," he said.
He said the team would help Government source funds required to fight the epidemic.
WHO has already set up a National Command Centre.
Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa welcomed the teams saying Zimbabwe was looking forward to sustainable measures to control cholera and other communicable diseases.
He said Government expected the experts to characterise the types of cholera in different areas in line with regional trends and offer assistance in improving water and sanitation in the country.
"The team is in the country to buttress what WHO is (already) doing and strengthening my team that is working on the disease. This is a team that is sent anywhere in the world where there is an outbreak and we hope it will deal decisively with the problem of cholera in the country.
"We hope the information that will be produced will be properly documented and available for the benefit of the country and the region because to me this is a unique outbreak," he said.
The team, he said, should help in coming up with a proper way of arriving at statistics since it was difficult for stakeholders to agree on figures.
Dr Parirenyatwa said there was need to come up with a point person within the ministry to work with the WHO personnel in co-ordinating the response to the epidemic.
The WHO team will be on the ground until Zimbabwe has successfully managed to deal with cholera outbreak that has claimed hundreds of lives since August.
The teams are expected to visit cholera hot spots that include Norton, Budiriro, Mudzi, Beitbridge and Chitungwiza.
Meanwhile, Dr Parirenyatwa complemented the support the country was receiving from the regional international and donor community following its request for assistance in the health sector.
He said: "The ministry is getting good response from donor agencies as exemplified by the support from Namibia, South Africa, the European Union and Tanzania. Donors and NGOs have also responded positively although the assistance is not enough and we still need more."
South Africa has been helping Zimbabwe battle cholera in Beitbridge while Namibia on Sunday donated a consignment of drugs and water treatment chemicals worth US$200 000 to help in the fight against cholera.
The assistance comes at a time the British and American governments have been agitating for aggression saying Zimbabwe's was in the grip of a humanitarian crisis that had outstripped Government capacity.
The two countries were spoiling to have Zimbabwe on the agenda of the UN Security Council with the UN reportedly being pressured to send an envoy to abet the cause.
Commenting on the development Presidential Spokesman, Cde George Charamba said the Westerners would stop at nothing to have Zimbabwe on the agenda of the UN Security Council.
"The British and the Americans are dead set on bringing Zimbabwe back to the UN Security Council, they are also dead set on ensuring that there is an invasion of Zimbabwe but without themselves carrying it out. In those circumstances they will stop at nothing including abusing both the office and personnel of the secretary general.
"We would not be surprised if they spring a 'mission' involving the UN."
Observers, however, say it remains to be seen whether the campaign will continue given that the UN has not only responded at the highest level, but also at the appropriate level by sending health experts.
More so, they said, the presence of the Sadc team and the recent MoU signed between the Government and WFP showed that Zimbabwe was open to genuine international assistance as bona fide international agencies were already on the ground.
Government appealed for help after declaring cholera and the state of central hospitals a national emergency.
Some countries and organisations such as China, Namibia, Unicef, the EU itself and Usaid among others have already chipped in with assistance in the form of vaccines, drugs, water purification tablets, drips and equipment.
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