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Africa
Zimbabwe: '100,000 hit by cholera'
Africa sees worst outbreak in 15 years as more than 4,000 people die, Red Cross says.
Last Modified: 26 May 2009 17:07 GMT
The Red Cross is seeking $3.4m to prevent the disease from spreading further [Reuters]

Cholera is expected to infect its 100,000th victim in Zimbabwe this week in the worst outbreak of the disease in Africa for 15 years, the Red Cross has said.

Although the disease, which has claimed 4,276 lives, is slowing, it remains a serious threat, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Tuesday.

"We stand now within days of 100,000 cases," Matthew Cochrane, an IFRC spokesman, said, a figure that was "unimaginable" just a few months ago.

He said that a cholera outbreak 15 years ago in what was then Zaire killed 12,000 people, typically refugees in camps fleeing the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.

Cochrane said that Zimbabwe's case was notable as it was so deadly and had not emerged during any conflict.

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Poor water and sewage systems that led to the outbreak also remained neglected, an IFRC report warned on Tuesday.

"Communities across the country are still without access to potable water and basic sanitation," it said.

"The threat of cholera remains very real."

The IFRC said that although infection and death rates have dropped sharply during the past two months, the epidemic could continue for a long time.

The Red Cross has asked for $3.5m from the international community to build toilets, drill bore holes and repair existing water sources.

The request came despite only 45 per cent of the $9mn it sought last year, at the peak of the waterborne disease's spread, being obtained.

The epidemic's outbreak has been aggravated by economic breakdown and political turmoil in Zimbabwe throughout most of in 2008.

A power-sharing government - formed in February - is aiming to raise billions of dollars from Western donors to help the country and has initiated a 100-day plan for political reform.

Source:
Agencies
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