Paidamoyo Chipunza and Yeukai Karengezeka
Harare City Council has been given a grant to find out in a survey the actual burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart, hypertension, cancers and psychiatric conditions.
The survey, scheduled to run for the whole of next year, followed capital injection of US$100 000 by an international data organisation Bloomberg Philanthropies and will run under the banner Health Cities.
More cases and deaths from NCDs are reported countrywide, with public health experts arguing that NCDs could actually be claiming more lives than HIV and AIDS.
Realising the magnitude of NCDs on populations, the municipality partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies to firstly conduct an assessment of the actual burden of NCDs in Harare, after which specific interventions responding to identified challenges would be designed.
Speaking to journalists during a Press conference held in Harare yesterday to announce the partnership and its expected outcomes, Harare Mayor Herbert Gomba said the survey assessed the burden of NCDs.
The diseases included cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, stroke and heart attacks, and other chronic conditions like diabetes, chronic lung disease, cancers, diseases of bones and joints and mental illness.
Mr Gomba said by embarking on the Healthy Cities programme, the council would be able to make tangible and positive change for Harare residents.
“Harare has not done any survey for NCDs and risk factors,” he said.
“Available data suggests an increasing prevalence of NCDs, with particular note to cardiovascular diseases in Zimbabwe.
“This (survey) will help Harare to get statistics and understand the extent of NCDs with a view of coming up with commensurate interventions.”
Speaking at the same occasion, City Health director Dr Prosper Chonzi said once the survey was complete, Bloomberg Philanthropies will release an additional US$50 000 to start interventions designed to respond to identified challenges.
“There is already an additional US$50 000 committed for next year, but it will be released depending on how well we would have completed this first exercise,” said Dr Chonzi.
He said the scope will also incorporate other conditions such as road traffic accidents, which are more pronounced, particularly during the festive season. Dr Chonzi said an external consultant has already been engaged to assist with preliminary activities preceding the survey.
He said the municipality’s new focus on NCD would not take away attention on communicable diseases such as typhoid, cholera and diarrhoea.
The rapid rise in NCDs is predicted to impede poverty reduction initiatives in Harare, particularly by increasing household costs associated with health care.