Friday, September 18, 2020

Panic as diarrhea deaths spiral out of hand

Government is sitting on information showing that there is growing panic among health authorities who believe that the death of more than 11 children recently following a diarrhoea outbreak should have been declared a national crisis.

There are even fears that the rising cases of diarrhoea signal a potential repeat of the disastrous outbreak of 2006 which killed more than 500 children nationwide. A few adult cases have now been reported and one of the patients is said to have lost his life in the Okavango area.

The Telegraph can reveal that on Monday new cases had been reported in other parts of the country.

These cases had been omitted in an official press release that was issued on Friday last week. The current disastrous outbreak is reported to have claimed more lives than previously announced.

It is understood that health workers have since been informed that since the situation was now spiraling out of control they should not go on leave during the upcoming independence holidays.

In a savingram leaked to The Telegraph, dated 7th September 2018, Acting Director of Public Health one T. Sengwaketse advised that there should be “activation of District Public Health Emergency Management (PHEM) Committee and Rapid Response Teams.”

Sengwaketse explained that was for monitoring the trends of priority diseases in the country. “The surveillance system indicates an increase in the number of diarrhoea cases in some District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) from week 33 of 2018.”

The Ministry therefore advised DMHTs to reactivate Public Emergency Management (PHEM) Committees and Rapid Response Teams (RRT) to strengthen diarrhoea interventions strategy. According to the Acting Public Health Director, the areas of focus should be but not limited to district disease surveillance, health education, water quality monitoring situation and hygiene, laboratory diagnosis and pharmaceuticals.

“Kindly treat this as a matter of urgency to ensure that lives are saved,” appealed Sengwaketse.

The Ministry’s Public Relations Officer Doreen Motshegwa on Monday told this publication that the matter was under control. She said her Ministry is expected to brief the Minister on Tuesday and in turn he would brief Cabinet on Wednesday.

Last week Friday the Ministry issued a statement showing that “two weeks into the diarrhea outbreak, the country continues to experience increasing diarrhoea cases, especially among young children under the age of five (5).”

“As at the 19th September, the total number of reported diarrhoea cases the Mahalapye area with 592, Bobirwa 511, Gaborone 485 cases, Boteti 435, Ngami 250, Kweneng East 232, Francistown 205, Selebi-Phikwe 221, Tonota 193 and Chobe 68 cases, this indicates a wide spread outbreak. This has resulted in a total of eleven deaths,” stated Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary, Setso Setso.

Setso said diarrhoea with dehydration can be fatal if not treated on time. “It is important to recognise diarrhoea signs as early as possible to avoid delay in reporting to the nearest health facility as diarrhoea is preventable and curable. Diarrhoea signs include loose bowls more than 3 times a day, fever, sunken eyes, sunken fontanel, dry lips, decrease urination, decrease tears and vomiting,” the Ministry said.

Setso added that “Investigations are on-going to determine the cause of the current diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea mostly affects children under five years.”

The Ministry advised parents, guardians, teachers and the public at large are advised to take the necessary precautions to avoid dehydration caused by diarrhoea in children by among others report to the nearest health facility if the child shows early signs of diarrhoea, boil water from the borehole/river before use and always cover water stored in containers and wash hands with soap before preparing food.

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