Zimbabwe Face 'Grave' Humanitarian Crisis As Cholera Toll Hits 1,111

by VR Sreeraman on  December 19, 2008 at 11:01 AM Tropical Disease News
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The death toll from Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic surged past 1,100 on Thursday, the United Nations said as aid groups warned of a "grave" humanitarian crisis.
Zimbabwe Face 'Grave' Humanitarian Crisis As Cholera Toll Hits 1,111
Zimbabwe Face 'Grave' Humanitarian Crisis As Cholera Toll Hits 1,111

With the death toll now at 1,111, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there had been a new outbreak in Harare and that agencies now fear there are more than 60,000 infections.

"The devastating cholera epidemic continues to spread, with a new outbreak in Chegutu Urban (in Harare), recording more than 378 suspected cases and 121 deaths," said an OCHA statement.

To help victims, British aid charity Oxfam launched an appeal for four million pounds (6.2 million dollars, 4.2 million euros) to help it increase efforts in Zimbabwe.

"The rapid deterioration of the situation in Zimbabwe makes this an extremely grave humanitarian crisis which could deteriorate even further in 2009," said Oxfam humanitarian director Jane Cocking.

"While the international community battles for a political solution in the country, millions of Zimbabweans are going hungry... We need to respond now, there is no time to lose," she added.

President Robert Mugabe's ruling party holds its annual conference Friday facing internal divisions and intense global pressure over a ruinous economic crisis and the cholera epidemic.

Facing international pressure to stand down, Mugabe, 84, meets his top officials with the first-ever loss of their parliamentary majority in elections this year hanging over them.

Cholera is the latest crisis to hit Mugabe's embattled government, as the once stable economy struggles with hyper-inflation, desperate food shortages and chronic political instability.

Citing a World Health Organization assessment, OCHA said the major causes for the outbreak of the treatable water-borne disease included the lack of drinking water and the breakdown of sanitation.

A health strike had worsened conditions, it added.

Harare remained the worst-hit area, with 224 people killed by the disease and 9,072 suspected cases. Almost three-quarters of the cases in the capital were added in the last two weeks, said OCHA.

Overall, nine out of 10 provinces in the country have now reported cases.

Cholera has also been reported in other southern African countries, with South Africa recording 11 deaths. Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia have also reported cases, although in smaller numbers, said OCHA.

Malawi reported five cholera deaths on Thursday, but said these were not linked to Zimbabwe's crisis.

Zimbabwe's health minister David Parirenyatwa said a 19-million dollar plan to fight cholera had been finalised with aid agencies, the state-run Herald newspaper reported Thursday.

Parirenyatwa this month appealed for international aid, after the cholera epidemic and the nation's delapidated hospitals were declared national emergencies.

"We feel (the plan) is coming a bit late and should address the root cause instead of just the symptoms of the problem," said Zimbabwe's National Association of Non Governmental Organisations spokesman Fambai Ngirande.

Source: AFP

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