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Anthrax - new misery to cholera-hit Zimbabwe

For immediate release
1 December 2008

Anthrax infections bring new misery to cholera-hit Zimbabwe

A deadly outbreak of anthrax has killed two children and one adult and is threatening to wipe out at least 60,000 livestock in Zimbabwe’s northern Zambezi Valley, Save the Children warned today.

The outbreak comes on top of increasing cholera infections which have killed hundreds of people and an economic meltdown as hyper-inflation takes hold. Currently as many as 5.1 million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid.

Anthrax can kill when infected meat is touched or eaten or when infected spores are inhaled. A quarantine zone has been declared in the affected areas of Matebeleland North, but because of the desperate hunger in the region some families are still eating infected meat.

An emergency assessment by the Save the Children and the Ministry of Health found 32 cases of human anthrax in Binga district. Anthrax infections have also killed 160 livestock, as well as 2 elephants, 70 hippo and 50 buffalo.

Rachel Pounds, one of Save the Children’s country director in Zimbabwe, said: “This may be the biggest anthrax outbreak since the 1979-80 civil war. Many families in the Zambezi region are so hungry that are taking meat from their dead animals and feeding it to their children. If the animal has been poisoned by anthrax, those children could die.

“Quarantines may be in place but Zimbabwe’s systems have collapsed and the restrictions will be difficult to maintain with such scant resources. Families no longer have a choice here. Even if they know they shouldn’t sell their livestock on to traders, it’s often their only lifeline of making money to feed themselves.”

“The crisis in Zimbabwe has gone into freefall and world leaders and donors must respond urgently with money and food to stop the decline. We can save lives by helping to contain the anthrax and cholera outbreaks that are crippling the country. But we need the resources to do it.”

With increased resources, Save the Children’s emergency team will be responding to the anthrax outbreak by helping to vaccinate cows, providing food, training health workers and educating communities about the dangers of anthrax.

Save the Children has launched a global appeal to raise money for its work in Zimbabwe. To donate go to www.savethechildren.org.nz


ENDS

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