Cholera Unleashes Its Rein of Sickness in Zimbabwe

by Savitha C Muppala on Dec 9 2008 3:25 PM

 Cholera Unleashes Its Rein of Sickness in  Zimbabwe
Roselyn Moyo has stopped allowing her children to play outside on the streets of Harare for fear of contracting cholera. The streets have become an unhealthy sight with mounds of trash that has not been cleared for months, making it a potential hotbed for infection.
"My kids no longer go out to play with their friends," the housewife told AFP.

"I am afraid they might get cholera. Uncollected refuse is lying all over our neighbourhood with flies flying all over. I can't risk my children playing outside," Moyo said.

Cholera has killed nearly 600 people across Zimbabwe since late August, with more than 6,000 cases identified just in Harare.

The UN children's agency UNICEF warned last week that the country could see 60,000 in the coming weeks, which could send the death toll up nearly five-fold.

Zimbabwe's government has declared a national emergency over the outbreak, but has few resources to combat the disease after a stunning economic collapse that has made a pauper of the once-vibrant country.

Hospitals lack even basic drugs and equipment to treat patients, forcing the government to appeal for international aid.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa has resorted to urging Zimbabweans to stop shaking hands to prevent the spread of the disease, which can be transmitted when human excrement mixes with food or drinking water.

Washing is impossible for many in Harare, where water supplies are unreliable and last week were severed entirely across the city for more than two days.

Now in many neighbourhoods, the water comes on around midnight but dries up before dawn, forcing Zimbabweans to leave their taps open with buckets waiting to catch every drop.

Some working-class suburbs haven't had running water for months because the pumps simply don't work any more. There people rely on well water or cisterns to catch the rain.

"The cholera outbreak is far from being contained. Some areas in the capital have been without water for months and the situation has not changed," said Taurai Gomo, who lives in the surburb of Glen View.

"The situation is just bad. We are living by the mercy of God," he told AFP.

"Water has been trickling in our taps here and there, but the bottom line is it's still not safe for drinking. You need to boil it, that is if electricity has not been cut."

The cholera epidemic has only compounded the daily struggles of Zimbabweans.

The United Nations says nearly half the population will need food aid next month, with 80 percent of the population living in poverty.

The economy has crumbled under the world's highest inflation, last estimated at 231 million percent in July.

Over the last week, the central bank has printed a succession of bank notes in ever-larger denominations with a 200 million dollar bill due out this week. Today that's worth about 12 US dollars, but its value erodes almost by the hour.

Even if their money had some meaningful value, few people can access it. Banks only allow people to withdraw money once a week, and then they are allowed a single bank note.

Hopes had soared for an end to the crisis when Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal on September 15.

The deal now is floundering, dashing the hopes of Zimbabwe's people.

"Cholera has been killing people, but this is only one of the many problems the country is facing," said another Harare resident, Thomas Mudimu.

"Our political leaders must agree to form a unity government to solve economic and social problems the country is facing," he said.


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