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Cholera Deaths Top 1,500 In Zimbabwe


New York, Dec 26 2008 12:10PM

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing local hospitals in Zimbabwe with critical medical supplies and money to treat pregnant women, amid a collapsing health system and the worst cholera outbreak in the sub-Saharan African country’s history which has now claimed over 1,500 lives.

Over the past week, UNFPA, in partnership with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, has delivered emergency reproductive health kits, medicine and surgical supplies to the maternity care units of Zimbabwe’s central hospitals – many of which are on the verge of collapse.

“The total consignment can meet the needs of a population of about 900,000 for at least three months,” UNFPA announced in a statement.

The agency has also handed out enough drugs to prevent pregnancy-related complications such as haemorrhaging and eclampsia throughout the country for the next six months, as well as pay incentives to maternity care medics, many of whom have gone without salaries and cannot report to work.

The moves are intended to throw a life-line to maternity units suffering from severe shortages of staff and supplies that have put the lives of thousands of pregnant women at risk.

The Government has declared the cholera outbreak a national emergency, but the healthcare situation remains dire – with many families unable to afford treatment – and may worsen during the current rainy season.

As of 25 December, 1,518 people have died from cholera and another 26,497 cases are suspected, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

Large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs), ex-farm workers and the poor have lost their livelihoods, leaving them cut off from basic social and healthcare services and dependent on humanitarian aid.

The HIV and AIDS pandemics are compounding the problem. UNFPA said that more than one million Zimbabweans – an estimated 15.6 per cent of the population – are living with those killer diseases. HIV prevention and access to safe delivery, including emergency obstetric care services, are critical to their survival.

During a ceremony to hand over emergency kits at Harare-based Parirenyatwa General Hospital, Zimbabwe’s largest hospital, Gift Malunga, UNFPA’s Assistant Representative there, urged the Government, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others to urgently support medical staff.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has already flow in intravenous fluids, drip equipment, essential drugs, midwifery and obstetrics kits to boost the Government’s cholera response.

On 22 December, four independent UN human rights experts called on Zimbabwe’s Government and the international community to do more to rebuild the country’s health system, end the cholera epidemic and ensure adequate food for all people.

Dec 26 2008 12:10PM

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