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Zimbabwe’s Cholera Epidemic Is Not Over

Zimbabwe’s Cholera Epidemic Is Not Over, Stresses Secretary-General

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today that the worst cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe’s history, contrary to remarks by the country’s President, is far from over, as United Nations agencies appealed for more funds to tackle the crisis and the effects of collapsing social services.

Media reports have quoted Robert Mugabe as saying that the outbreak, which the UN World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed has led to nearly 800 deaths, is under control.

“I cannot agree that the cholera epidemic is over,” Mr. Ban told a news conference in Geneva.

“The reports I have been receiving ... are alarming,” he said. “There are still many people who are suffering from this epidemic.”

WHO said today that the current cholera outbreak – an acute intestinal infection caused by contaminated food or water – is the most serious ever registered in Zimbabwe, with some 16,700 cases so far.

“I don’t believe the cholera outbreak is under control as of now,” WHO’s Fadéla Chaib told reporters in Geneva.

The agency is seeking $6 million to control the outbreak, which has also spread to neighbouring South Africa and, to a lesser extent, to Botswana and Mozambique. There are about 750 cases and 11 deaths so far in South Africa.

In addition, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today appealed for $17.5 million to enable it to scale up its cholera response, provide incentives for teachers to return to work, procure essential medicines for hospitals and help get social services back on track.

“The situation in Zimbabwe is dire and our response has to match the severity,” said UNICEF Acting Representative Roeland Monasch, “Assistance needs to be taken to scale and it has to happen urgently.

“For this to happen we need resources. The deepening crisis in Zimbabwe comes amidst growing food insecurity, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and poses the worst threat to child survival and development in 20 years.”

UNICEF has been providing intravenous fluids, drips, tents and beds for cholera treatment centres, as well as trucking 470,000 litres of water per day, drilling boreholes, and distributing water purification tools to more than 3.5 million Zimbabweans.


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