22 Nov 2008

Cholera outbreak kills hundreds in Zimbabwe

7:11 am on 22 November 2008

A cholera outbreak has killed nearly 300 people in Zimbabwe in recent weeks, and infected about 6,000 people, the World Health Organization reports.

The UN agency predicted the water-borne disease would continue to spread because of poor sanitation in the impoverished country's urban areas.

Many hospitals have shut down and most towns suffer from intermittent water supply, broken sewers and uncollected waste.

The World Health Organization said tackling the problem would be difficult because of the local shortage of drugs, medical supplies and health professionals, and the start of the rainy season was "also of concern".

"The outbreak is likely to continue as the water and sanitation situation is worsening, with severe shortages of potable water, sewage and waste disposal problems reported in most of the populated areas," it said in a statement.

In Geneva, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs specified that cholera had spread to all of Zimbabwe's provinces.

The organisation and the WHO put the total number of suspected cholera as of 18 November at 6,072 with 294 deaths.

Zimbabwe's own government has reported fewer deaths, putting the figure at 90, but Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said this week that his ministry was battling to control unprecedented outbreaks.

He identified Budiriro, a suburb of the capital Harare, as "the epicentre of the disease", adding that the current wave of cholera had begun in September in Chitungwiza Municipality.