When I read this headline I thought, “Cholera was a disease that killed a lot of people in Victorian London.” Then it occurred to me that I really didn’t know what cholera is, so I looked it up.
Cholera causes diarrhea so severe and so acute that unless oral rehydration therapy is started promptly, death can occur within hours. The diarrhea results in such extreme dehydration that victims become dried up caricatures of their former selves before dying. The description of the scene this week outside the hospital in Musina, a South African border town crowded with refugees from Zimbabwe explains why cholera is feared more than many other serious diseases because it is so dehumanizing.
Beneath trees exploding with yellow and red blossoms, more than 100 adults and children lay inside steamy tents and under bushes, intravenous tubes stretching from the backs of their hands to bags of liquid hanging from tree trunks. Some, suffering through the gravest stages of an illness that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration, wore nothing but adult-size diapers.
People get cholera when they do not have access to clean water. Cholera is transmitted from person to person through ingestion of water contaminated with cholera infected feces. This epidemic is a direct result of the dire political situation in Zimbabwe and the resulting destruction of infrastucture and health systems. In recent months the disease has killed 570 people and infected 12,700 more. Now cholera is spreading to neighboring countries including Botswana and Mozambique.
Clever Kachitigu (23) said, “We’re just praying that the Lord will help us, because our president is killing us now.”
Visit: UNICEF to learn more and see what you can do to help.