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Associated Press
A youngster carries a child on her back through a stream of polluted water in Harare,

Mugabe Claims Zimbabwe’s Cholera Outbreak Over, Despite Rising Death Toll

December 11, 2008 04:11 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said during a speech on Thursday that the epidemic is over, but several reports indicate otherwise.

Cholera claims more than 16,000 victims

A “ferocious” cholera epidemic has victimized more than 16,000 people in Zimbabwe since August and has so far killed more than 780, reports The New York Times.

Experts are warning that the disease could eventually affect more than 60,000 and that half of the country’s 12 million people are at risk. And the World Health Organization says that the outbreak could lead to “serious regional implications.” South African officials already report that refugees in the Limpopo region on its border with Zimbabwe are spreading disease, and have declared it a disaster area.

In the meantime, Zimbabwe’s public services continue to fail. Schools have stopped functioning as meagerly paid teachers fail to show up to work, water has been cut off in the capital, sanitation services have stopped, and hospitals have been shut down. Even Mugabe’s soldiers have been rioting on the capital’s streets, and some say it is “the beginning of the end for Mr. Mugabe.”

On Thursday, President Robert Mugabe declared in a televised speech that the cholera epidemic is over. “I am happy to say … that there is no cholera,” he announced, according to The Economist magazine, which called his remarks an attempt to “deflect” foreign criticism ahead of a United Nations special session on Zimbabwe.

“The delusion of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, appears to know no end,” comments The Economist.

Background: Cholera breaks out, government asks for international aid

Zimbabwe’s government is in need of aid to buy food, drugs and medical costs such as equipment and doctors’ salaries, state media reported earlier this month, after the government declared a state of emergency.

“Our central hospitals are literally not functioning,” Minister of Health David Parirenyatwa said Wednesday, according to the BBC.

Zimbabweans are struggling to find food and clean drinking water. The country has also recently seen wholesale economic collapse and the highest inflation in the world, which has caused cash to become scarce. A new 100 million Zimbabwean dollar note was introduced on Thursday in attempt to ease the crisis.

Residents report that the government has not been able to alleviate the situation, due to its paralysis since disputed elections in March between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, who have since been struggling to resolve talks over a power-sharing deal.
Several international entities have already pledged aid, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, which plans to provide an extra $600,000 specifically for the cholera outbreak; the European Commission, which is sending $12 million for drugs and clean water; and the International Red Cross, which sent supplies on Wednesday.

Around the same time, the BBC reported that Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was calling for Mugabe’s removal, citing the death of power-sharing talks in the country. “It’s time for African governments … to push him out of power,” Odinga said after talks with Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in what the BBC called some of the strongest comments against Mugabe by any African leader.

In November, power-sharing talks that started in September between the opposition and ruling parties in Zimbabwe came to an end after the MDC accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of being behind “a new wave of violence” against its supporters.

Related Topics: New water purifying technology; cholera in the US

A Canadian company called Element Four is hoping that its WaterMill, an electric machine that uses moisture from the air and purifies it into clean drinking water, could be useful to developing countries such as Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo suffering from water-borne diseases. The WaterMill, which is scheduled to go on sale in the spring, can supply a household with potable drinking water, while the WaterWall, another Element Four device in development, could potentially supply an entire village.

The potential for a cholera outbreak became a concern in the United States in 2005 after the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. “We are gravely concerned about the potential for cholera, typhoid, and dehydrating diseases that could come as a result of the stagnant water and other conditions,” announced the Bush administration’s Health and Human Services secretary. Health problems of many kinds have been a continuing issue for the city’s residents since the hurricane.

Reference: What is cholera?


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