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Death Toll From Zimbabwe’s Cholera Tops 1000

Death Toll From Zimbabwe’s Cholera Outbreak Tops 1,000 – UN

New York, Dec 18 2008 4:10PM

The United Nations said today that the death toll from the worst cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe’s history has now surpassed 1,100 and the epidemic continues to spread to new areas of the capital, Harare.

In addition, the number of suspected cases as of 17 December has now reached nearly 20,600, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“The UN is planning for a worst-case scenario of 60,000 cases before the end of the rainy season,” UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters. “That’s based on an estimate that half of the country’s population is potentially at risk of contracting cholera.”

In addition to affecting nine out of the country’s ten provinces, the outbreak has also spilled across borders into South Africa, Botswana, and Mozambique.

OCHA said cases and fatalities of cholera – an acute intestinal infection caused by contaminated food or water – have decreased substantially in areas where aid agencies are present.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has already flown in medical supplies to treat 50,000 people. The agency is also working with OCHA to coordinate the response through a donor-funded Cholera Command and Control Centre.

In addition, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
is intensifying its support to cholera treatment centres across the country.

The cholera epidemic is just the latest crisis to hit the Southern African nation, which has been faced with a worsening humanitarian situation owing to years of failed harvests, bad governance and hyperinflation, as well as months of political tensions after disputed presidential elections in March involving the incumbent Robert Mugabe and the opposition figure Morgan Tsvangirai.

Although a power-sharing deal on the formation of a new government was reached in September with the help of regional leaders, outstanding issues remain, jeopardizing the deal’s implementation.

“We need a fair and sustainable political solution in Zimbabwe, as provided under previous agreements. And we need it fast,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters yesterday at his year-end news conference.

He said the humanitarian situation is growing “more alarming” every day, warning that “Zimbabwe stands on the brink of economic, social and political collapse.”

The Secretary-General has backed the humanitarian initiative on Zimbabwe offered by The Elders – comprising former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, former United States president Jimmy Carter and former Mozambican first lady Graça Machel.

In this regard, “he regretted the decision of the Government of Zimbabwe not to cooperate with their timely, well-intended effort to assist the people of Zimbabwe,” said Ms. Okabe.

“The Secretary-General hopes that another mission can take place in the near future, given the grave and deteriorating situation in the country,” she added.

On 5 December, Mr. Annan sent the Secretary-General the report of The Elders, containing recommendations to Zimbabwe’s political leaders and authorities, leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and donors.

ENDS

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