Zimbabwe is a sad example of what happens in a country during the last throes of manic despotism: unimaginable inflation, hunger, the breakdown of public services, contaminated water, and − inevitably − cholera. The whole situation is simply beyond belief. The BBC News site has several pages on the country’s cholera epidemic − for example, Charity warns on Zimbabwe cholera. The 12 December issue of the WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record reports the cholera mortality and morbidity figures given by the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health, which are likely to be gross underestimates. Rather more realistic figures, as of 19 December, are given in WHO’s Global Task Force on Cholera Control short report Cholera Country Profile: Zimbabwe.
No chance, then, of a Happy New Year in Zimbabwe. Things might improve in April/May if (when) Jacob Zuma becomes president of South Africa − as a Zulu he will hopefully remember the Ndebele massacres in the 1980s and simply say to Mugabe ‘leave office now or in come my Zulu regiments’. Unfortunately for many (probably most) Zimbabweans the water will stay contaminated until Mugabe goes and the cholera will continue, reinforcing the view (here) that Africa has become the new homeland for this disease.
Of course, we’ve known since 1854 that cholera can be transmitted through “the medium of polluted water” (and water gets polluted due to poor sanitation and hygiene), but we need to remember this historical lesson − as Robert Jacob Goodkin said, “Look to the past for guidance into the future”.