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Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic is not under control

For immediate release Friday 12 December

Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic is not under control, Save the Children said today.

Speaking from the agency's HQ in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare today, Rachel Pounds, Save the Children country director said: "If anything is certain in the chaos of Zimbabwe today it is that the cholera outbreak is not under control. According to the latest figures 775 people have died so far. Save the Children knows this is an underestimate - figures do not include areas in which we work and where we know there have been many unrecorded deaths.

"Also, the percentage of people who are dying having contracted cholera in the first place is way higher than normal for this disease. With even the most basic health care on hand, you would expect to see a death rate of only one or two percent. In some areas of Zimbabwe a third of those who have contracted the infection are dying."

Ms Pounds added that the crisis was almost certainly worsening. "Reliable figures are hard to come by, but there is much evidence out there that this crisis is growing, not diminishing, especially as we know there are many people who can't get to cholera centres. Water and health services have collapsed and more than half of the 10 million population of Zimbabwe need emergency food aid. Given that this is a disease spread by unclean water and exacerbated by hunger which weakens victims, this problem has not gone away. This deadly disease will continue to spread unless we get more money and more resources to halt the contamination and treat victims promptly."

Save the Children urged the international community to listen to aid agencies working in Zimbabwe and to Zimbabweans themselves living with the horror of hunger and cholera. "It is ordinary families who are bearing the brunt of this crisis, and it is to them the world must listen," said Ms Pounds. "They should listen to the mothers whose babies have died, and to the children waiting outside health clinics to see if their mothers or fathers will come out alive. That's the reality here."

Save the Children's 200-strong team in Zimbabwe is helping to provide drugs to treat cholera and educating communities how to avoid infection, as well as providing food so that safe cholera treatment camps can be set up to prevent further contamination.

The aid organisation is feeding close to 700,000 people and helping families prepare for the future by distributing seed, small livestock and helping to set up vegetable gardens. Save the Children has worked in Zimbabwe for 25 years.

Please donate to our appeal at www.savethechildren.org.nz or call 0800 167 168

ENDS

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