Empowering at- risk Communities to fight Cholera Outbreak in Southern highland regions in Tanzania
Active participation of the local communities is key to promoting community ownership and commitment towards addressing negative practices that favour the spread of diseases. World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health are working together to empower key community groups living in affected regions by the recent cholera outbreak in Tanzania with appropriate sanitation and hygienic skills and advocacy messages to prevent and respond to the outbreak.
The key interventions involve social-cultural rapid assessment, broadcasting of prevention messages through local media, orientation and deployment of faith and community leaders, establishment, and operationalization of multisectoral Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) committees, development of micro-plans, Community Health Workers as well as printing and dissemination of Information, Education, communication/Social Behavioral Change Communication materials.
With WHO's financial and technical support, 4 regional and district RCCE committees with 180 members were established, 150 CHWs oriented and deployed for community sensitization and social mobilization for a month, 10 local media personnel trained, 600 local and faith leaders capacitated, and 60 school-teachers oriented to amplify the promotion of WASH and IPC practices mainly focusing on the use of improved latrines, water treatment, food safety, and hand hygiene. In addition, a total of 41,000 posters and brochures were printed and disseminated in the Mbeya and Ruvuma regions.
The acting Country Representation, Dr Yoti Zabulon stated “WHO remains committed to supporting the government in addressing, managing, and containing the spread of outbreaks such as Cholera. We will continue to work closely with patterns and the government to ensure the cholera outbreak becomes a thing of the past.
As of 10th March 2023, Tanzania recorded a cumulative total of 72 cases mainly from the Katavi, Kigoma, Ruvuma, and Rukwa regions. Factors such as drinking contaminated water, poor hygienic practices, delay in seeking care, and weak clinical management of cases among others were cited to contribute to the increase in the number of cases and deaths.
For instance, in Nyasa district, Ruvuma region, out of 22,211 households, only 6,308 households had less sanitary latrines, 357 had no traditional latrines at all, only 2,045 households (9.2%) had hand washing facilities and 1,399 households treat water either by using Chlorine or boiling (6.3%) as of 16th March 2023. At Kyela district, Mbeya region, as of 24th March 2023, out of 41,701 households, 1,277 households had no improved latrines (27%), 251 households had no latrines at all, 826 households had hand washing facilities while no household was recorded to treat water (0%).
The District Commissioner of Nyasa district in the Ruvuma region, Filberto Sanga, appreciated the efforts taken by the WHO and the Ministry of Health to support the district to enhance the promotion of positive behavioural practices to halt the spread of Cholera disease.
“As the chair of the RCCE committee in the district, I am very glad for the invaluable support that WHO and the Ministry of Health have availed to the district to save the lives of our people. We want to assure you that with this support, Nyasa district will remain committed and dedicated to ensure that further Cholera transmissions are stopped, and the district remains safe for other socio-economic activities to progress,” he said.
The District Commissioner added, “The RCCE committee will be a catalyst for the promotion of prevention measures within our localities and all behavioural change interventions for the safety of our district.”
From the religious leaders’ perspective, the need to continually emphasize the promotion of hygienic practices using places of worship is very key to ensuring that their congregants are safe from preventable diseases.
“It is our responsibility to take care of our bodies and environment. God gave us this world and a good environment to protect and take good care of it to avoid outbreaks. We need to promote hygienic practices because these are very key to making us safe from preventable diseases such as Cholera and COVID-19,” says pastor Allan Massawe.
The Cholera outbreak reported in the Republic of Malawi in February has posed high risks to many lives in the neighbouring countries including Tanzania. The Southern Highland regions bordering Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, in Southwestern Tanzania which include Mbeya, Ruvuma, Njombe, Songwe, and Rukwa have been highly vulnerable to cross-border transmissions. Due to proximity and the socio-economic interactions between the regions bordering Malawi and other regions in Tanzania, the risk for further transmissions to more regions including Katavi and Kigoma was equally rated high.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization – United Republic of Tanzania.