By Judith Sibanda
Victoria Falls, February 19, 2016 – A yellow fever outbreak in Angola has caused panic in the resort town, with tour guides operating in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA- TFCA) saying they now fear for their lives.
At least 50 people have died of yellow fever in Angola while 241 were infected, according to official reports.
KAZA includes the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, the south-eastern corner of Angola, southern western Zambia, northern woodlands of Botswana and western Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls).
Cephas Macheka, a Victoria Falls based tour guide said they interacted with tourists who travel extensively within the conservation area, going as far as Angola.
“As you know Zimbabwe is part of the KAZA where we do game drives and other activities within different national parks in the region,” he said.
“We take clients from one place to another with the conservation area and some of them will be coming from as far as Angola.
“Victoria Falls is the main attraction within KAZA, which means those from Angola will also want to be part of the game drives here.”
Another tour guide Edmore Phiri said he had since taken leave from work after he was sent to Angola by his employers.
“I applied for an urgent leave because l was scared,” he said. “It is not easy to move from one place to the other with clients knowing you can be the next victim.
“I also fear that the outbreak will spread to Victoria Falls considering that Zimbabwe is carrying out yellow fever vaccinations.”
Mayelane Tours director Christopher Ndiweni said there was need to protect both tourists and tour guides following the yellow fever outbreak.
“We urge those coming from Angola to bring proof that they have been vaccinated against yellow fever, which they should present to the Immigration Department,” he said.
“This is one of the diseases that may actually lead to a decline in tourism revenue in the region as was the case with Ebola that hit West Africa last year.”
Ndiweni said they had seen a decline in tourist bookings and an increase in the number of visitors cancelling bookings.
“We have seen a decline in the number of bookings or cancellation without specific reasons but we believe that is the root cause,” he said.
Victoria Falls Guide Associated president Fancis Nyabadza said they would soon meet to discuss the matter.
“Tour guides and some tour operators are panicking right now and we want to meet and discuss the issue before we propose a way forward,” he said.
However, Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Clement Mukwasi said reports of the yellow few outbreak had been blown out of proportion.
“We have of course heard the media reports alleging that many people have died in the region but I don’t believe that those signs are a serious outbreak because those statistics are not too recent, but a record of something that has been going on,” he said.
“It has been there and we are not worried about it since it is a viral infection that is confined there due to their environment.
“Zimbabwe has never suffered from such a disease outbreak but the guides that travel to Angola should be careful.”
Yellow fever is a viral infection caused by mosquitos mainly found in Africa’s tropical regions. Its symptoms include headaches, nausea and fatigue. There is no specific treatment for the disease.