SAYWHAT stands in solidarity with affected students amidst the cholera outbreak in Institutions of Higher Learning

It is with great concern that the Students And Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) expresses distress over the spread of cholera in Zimbabwe, particularly within institutions of higher learning. SAYWHAT advocates collective responsibility and promotion of sound health practices, not only by students and young people but by all people in Zimbabwe and the region.


Educational institutions, being places where students reside and dine in close quarters, are particularly vulnerable to the spread of cholera. On November 13, Health authorities announced Mkoba Teachers’ College’s temporary closure for fear of a cholera outbreak after 508 cases of diarrhoea were reported in less than two weeks. Although four RTD tests conducted were negative for cholera, three out of eight water samples were declared unfit for human consumption.


Additionally, SAYWHAT recognizes the interconnectedness between Climate Change and the resurgence of cholera. The intensification of extreme weather events exacerbates chronically underfunded water and sanitation infrastructures worsening the triggers of cholera and increasing its toll on lives. The connection underscores the need to scale up readiness to quickly detect cases and mount comprehensive and timely responses.


SAYWHAT acknowledges the actions taken by the Midlands Province health authorities to address the situation and protect the well-being of students. Additionally, we commend that the incident management system for cholera response was activated, and a cholera outbreak incident manager was appointed at the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate the outbreak response, in line with the Zimbabwe Multi-sectoral Cholera Elimination Plan.


SAYWHAT remains committed to building resilience and tackling multiple complex humanitarian and health emergencies, poor water, and sanitation infrastructures, to curb outbreaks of cholera and ensure students and young people do not die from the disease. Further, we want to stress the critical importance of solidarity and action among all stakeholders. Response to cholera requires everyone to join efforts and work together to ensure Health for All.


SAYWHAT calls upon the government to capacitate institutions of higher learning to deal with both suspected and confirmed cases of cholera through the supply of medicines and facilities for the hospitalization of patients. There is need to ramp up disease surveillance, prevention and treatment measures, community engagement, as well as multi-sectoral coordination with partners and agencies to improve sanitation and provide potable water. We appeal for sustainable practices to be prioritized which are key to safeguarding public health. More efforts and investments should be channeled towards climate change education and awareness so that communities relate with the environment on an informed basis. The community engagement will help reduce climate risks.


SAYWHAT encourages educational authorities to prioritize the health and safety of students by enforcing water and sanitation regulations and guidelines. Regular water testing, improved handwashing facilities, and the availability of water treatment chemicals are essential for maintaining a healthy environment within educational institutions. Schools and colleges must ensure the safety of water sources by conducting tests, improving handwashing mechanisms as well and availing water treatment chemicals at their institutions.

As a youth-led organisation, SAYWHAT remains dedicated in ensuring that the voices and rights of young individuals are respected, their well-being protected. We urge students to take precautions by avoiding tap water and consuming only boiled or treated potable water. Students must ensure all food is freshly cooked and served hot, as they practice thorough handwashing with soap and clean water. This is especially important before handling and consuming food, as well as after using the bathroom. Students and young people should remember that they have a role to play in the prevention and control of cholera. The cholera situation needs to be curbed, as the health systems risk being overwhelmed leading to unnecessary deaths. Students and youth must seek medical attention at the nearest facility when unwell particularly if they experience symptoms of watery diarrhoea and vomiting.


Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. SAYWHAT calls upon all stakeholders to prioritise the rights, aspirations, and potential of young individuals. Together, we can create a society where every young person, regardless of their background, enjoys access to comprehensive public health services, quality education, and opportunities for socio-economic empowerment.


For media inquiries and further information, please contact:

[Isabella Michael]

[Communications, Advocacy and Media Lead]


[+263 782702887]

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