From ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
ARUSHA, (CAJ News) – RELIGIOUS and cultural beliefs and practices are fuelling the spread of the deadly cholera, which has killed at least 21 people in the Southern Africa bloc since the beginning of the year.
More than 250 were killed in 216. Tanzania, geographically in East Africa but a member of the Southern African bloc is worst affected with 14 deaths this year. Angola has recorded six deaths and Mozambique confirmed a single death.
The Joint Cholera Initiative for Southern Africa (JCISA) said insistence with centuries-old practices as objections to modern health services and medicines, sanitation taboos, handshaking, burial rituals, sharing utensils and food during funerals as well as gender norms serve as barriers to cholera prevention and control especially during cholera outbreaks.
As an example, in Malawi and Zambia, ingrained cultural and social norms on latrine sharing are commonplace.
In the two countries, laws discouraging pregnant women to use latrines are said to ‘normalize’ open defecation, which increases risk to cholera and diarrheal diseases.
Cholera remains a significant threat to public health, and a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Africa has the largest proportion of the cholera burden in the world, and deemed “cholera’s new homeland” due to the persistent outbreaks since 1990.
In several southern African countries, cyclical, seasonal, and annual cholera epidemics have been reported since 2000.
The cholera outbreak in August 2008 in Zimbabwe resulted in over 98 000 suspected cases and about 4 300 deaths, the largest cholera epidemic ever recorded in Africa