- The World Health Organisation (WHO) has today said it believes there is a link to Zimbabwe on the Cholera outbreak in neibouring countries. The report comes despite earlier dimissals from some of the Zimbabwe bordering neighbours of such a link.
The South African health department was one of the first to say there is a history of cholera in the affected areas, saying finger pointing was another perpertuation of xenophibic attacks on Zimbabweans and other foreigners.
WHO official has said the outbreak of cholera in South Africa – and possibly those in Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia – is linked to Zimbabwe, where the disease has already claimed over 3,500 lives and is still not under control.
Countries bordering Zimbabwe have all reported cholera cases, WHO’s Fadela Chaib told a news conference in Geneva, noting that South Africa has reported some 4,800 cases and 34 deaths between 15 November 2008 and 20 January 2009.
Mozambique is experiencing an outbreak in 10 out of its 11 provinces, with a total of some 3,600 cases and 25 deaths reported.
Three of Angola’s provinces are affected with 273 cases and one death reported so far, while some 3,000 cases and 43 deaths have been reported in Zambia between 10 September 2008 and 27 January 2009.
But it is hard to say whether all cases are linked to the Zimbabwe outbreak, as Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and parts of South Africa are endemic for the water-borne disease, Ms Chaib noted, further adding that Botswana, which is not endemic for cholera, has eight cases.
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, some 73,000 cholera cases have been reported since the outbreak began last August, and the death toll now stands at 3,524.
These figures show that the country’s worst-ever cholera outbreak “is still not under control,” said Ms Chaib.
She added that efforts are continuing to help tackle the crisis, including the opening of more treatment centres across the country. There are currently some 360 treatment centres.
At the same time, she noted that the lack of food and transportation and the fact that health workers are underpaid are posing challenges for the humanitarian community. In addition, possible flooding linked to the current rainy season can make areas difficult to access.
As efforts are piling to help out in the Zimbabwean crisis, the UN has said the humanitarian mission, led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), will visit the southern African nation from 21 to 25 February. The team will also include the participation of WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP), said the report.
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