CONCERN is growing about the incidence of cholera in Zimbabwe. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, a group of more than 100 churches, has asked the government to declare the recent outbreak a national disaster.
The World Health Organisation has reported nearly 300 deaths since the first reported outbreak in the summer in Chitungwiza, a southern district of Harare. The UN estimates that about 6000 have contracted the disease.
A declaration of disaster must be issued if the country is to receive humanitarian aid. “The government should declare the cholera outbreak a national disaster, and solicit international support to bring it under control and restore supplies of safe water and sanitation systems to Zimbabwe’s population,” the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human rights said.
Many of the state hospitals have been shut down because of inadequate supplies of medical equipment, and the humanitarian-aid group Médicins sans Frontières has established treatment centres in Harare and Beitbridge.
“We are sending emergency staff and supplies to various locations in Zimbabwe in order to contain the outbreak and treat those who have been infected,” a spokeswoman said.
Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, was denied entry into Zimbabwe last weekend, together with the former US President Jimmy Carter. Both have voiced strong regret over the government’s lack of co-operation with the humanitarian mission.
“The entire basic structure has broken down,” Mr Carter said. “These are all indications that the crisis in Zimbabwe is much worse than we ever could have imagined.”