Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cholera death rate multiplies in Zimbabwe

A sharp rise in the death toll from cholera has added new urgency to the humanitarian disaster in Zimbabwe, amid fresh signs that the provision of transport and public services is close to collapse.

Relief workers said yesterday that with hyperinflation, many nurses, doctors and health workers could no longer afford to pay for the bus or taxi to reach cholera treatment centres. More than four times as many people were dying from this outbreak of cholera than was typically the case, said relief workers.

In a sign that the economic crisis may be starting to affect the props of President Robert Mugabe's repressive regime, about 50 soldiers are reported to have looted shops, attacked traders and clashed

with police after queuing to withdraw virtually worthless Zimbabwean dollars from banks on Monday.

"They had to vent their anger in some way," said Itai Zimunya, of the Open Society's Zimbabwe project in Johannesburg. "The state has begun to fail. There is no government."

The numbers released yesterday by the World Health Organisation indicated that the cholera epidemic was spreading rapidly, with nearly 11,000 people contracting the illness in the past three weeks. During the same period 400 people died, bringing the total death toll to 484 and indicating that Zimbabwean cholera sufferers are losing their lives at four times the standard rate in a cholera epidemic.

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