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Zimbabwe Is Facing a 'Very Dire' Cholera Outbreak

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By Columbus Mavhunga

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — The United Nations says the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe is a “very dire situation” because there are now cases outside the country’s capital, where the government has declared a state of emergency.

Zimbabwe’s health minister, Obadiah Moyo, is calling on international aid agencies to chip in, following 20 deaths and more than 2,000 cases related to waterborne diseases such as salmonella, typhoid, and cholera.

Sirak Gebrehiwot, United Nations spokesperson in Zimbabwe, says UN agencies have since moved in to try and stabilize the situation.

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“This cholera situation is very dire situation. The hot spot is Harare but we are getting reports of confirmed and unconfirmed cases in other parts of the country, like Shamva, Masvingo and Buhera," said Gebrehiwot. "The UN family we are providing all the support we could; positioning, repositioning essential drugs, at the same time the issue is on strengthening the surveillance system.”

Health minister Moyo on Tuesday said his government wants to address the issue of poor water supply, blocked sewers, and irregular trash collection, the factors he said were making a cholera outbreak in the capital worse.

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Dr. Norman Matara of Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights said his organization has volunteered resources to avoid unnecessary deaths from the cholera outbreak.

But he said the group wants President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to quickly improve the water treatment system.

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"Cholera is a disease which is quite ancient, easily preventable. So we just have to provide safe cleaning water, have proper sanitation facilities. You won’t have cholera," said Matara. "But we have been seeing all year round; broken down sewer [pipes], sewers all over the places, even the piped water, you would see dirt water coming out of the taps. We were breeding cholera all along, we knew we were sitting on a time bomb; soon we were going to have cholera but nothing was done."

Officials are trying to fix broken sewer pipes in Budiriro, one of the most affected parts of Harare.

A 2008 cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe lasted more than a year and killed about 5,000 people. It only stopped after international groups like United Nations agencies and USAID donated drugs and water treatment chemicals.