Zimbabwe cholera deaths rise to 25 as World Health Organization steps up response


How will Zimbabwe's opposition navigate ban on public gatherings?

In December 2008, the Zimbabwean government declared the outbreak a national emergency and requested worldwide aid.

A World Health Organization situation report revealed that first-line antibiotics were struggling to treat the disease, which has spread to five of the country's 10 provinces.

"Relevant medicines should be purchased as a matter of urgency as soon as resistance patterns have been ascertained", it recommended.

Public gatherings have been banned in the capital Harare as part of the authorities' efforts to quell the spread of the disease. In order to contain the outbreak and mobilise resources we have declared a state of emergency in Harare, and are working closely with our global partners.

The main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa who visited clinics where cholera patients were being treated earlier on Wednesday, planned to hold a rally on Saturday where he may take a mock presidential oath.

The move came after the Government declared a state of emergency following 20 deaths and more than 2,000 cases related to waterborne diseases such as salmonella, typhoid and cholera.

Informal housing areas without running water have mushroomed, and basic infrastructure has collapsed due to years of neglect.

Residents in some Harare suburbs have gone for months without tap water, forcing them to dig shallow wells and boreholes that have been contaminated by raw sewage flowing from burst pipes.

"The current cholera epidemic is a bad outcome of Zimbabwe's failure to invest in and manage both its basic water and sanitation infrastructure and its health care system", said Jessica Pwiti, Executive Director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe, in a statement released Wednesday.

A total of 4 000 people died and at least 100 000 people fell ill.

"But no lessons were learned from the 2008 epidemic, and the outbreak and deaths we're seeing now is symptomatic of a still-broken sanitation infrastructure and poor sewer management, worsened by shortages of drugs and medical supplies".

Cholera, a water borne disease, can be prevented by taking precautions such as washing hands thoroughly with clean water, only drinking water from safe sources and storing clean water in covered containers.

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