Cholera Returns to Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Cholera OutbreakZimbabwe and international organizations fear another cholera outbreak might spread in the African country after 12 new cases of the waterborne disease were registered in a rural district last week, The Guardian reported Monday, citing the ZimOnline news agency.

Although none of the cases proved fatal, the United Nations and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that the disease could again spread in Zimbabwe as the rainy season starts as early as September and the root causes of the epidemic continue to plague the country.

The recent infections also caused panic in the affected communities, located more than 180 miles south-east of the capital Harare.

The latest cholera epidemic in the country killed 4,288 and infected close to 100,000 people between August 2008 and July 2009.

Although the government declared the cholera outbreak over in July, Rian van de Braak – the head of the MSF mission – said that the threat is “definitely not over.” According to UNICEF’s Chief of Health Dr. Peter Salama, another epidemic is “almost inevitable,” because no real improvements have been made to the country’s crumbling water and sanitation systems.

“There is a deterioration of infrastructure in the country, and Zimbabwe has not made progress in improving this infrastructure,” Salama said. “This will expose people to another cholera outbreak again.”

Cholera – an intestinal disease that gets transmitted through dirty water – can spread rampantly, especially in rural areas. Last December, for example, the World Health Organization estimated that 60,000 people in Zimbabwe were at imminent risk of infection. By Christmas 20,000 had contracted cholera and 1,000 had died.

Read more here and here.

Sources: The Guardian, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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