Southern African bloc to spearhead relief effort and help country fight cholera.
Nine out of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces have reported cases of cholera and the World Health Organisation has said the total number of cases could reach 60,000 unless the epidemic is stopped.
Cholera spreads through contaminated water but is easily treatable and with prompt rehydration. Fewer than one per cent of cholera patients die.
But in Zimbabwe, poor health care and a lack of drinking water and sanitation is escalating the effects of the epidemic.
Efforts to tackle the epidemic have also been affected by a nurses’ strike.
Health workers have been “unable to obtain salaries from the bank due to the shortage of bank notes, making it too burdensome and expensive to travel to work,” the World Health Organisation said.
Humanitarian agencies have also reported an impending shortfall of intravenous fluids to treat cases of cholera.
Groups such as Medecins sans Frontieres and the International Organisation for Migration have said they only have supplies to last up to the first week of January.
The British charity Oxfam has asked international donors for $6m to fight the epidemic.
Oxfam has said it is preparing to “substantially” scale up its work in Zimbabwe, where it is providing food, water purification tables and soap to one million people.
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president, has come under increasing pressure to resign following his failure to handle the cholera outbreak, the collapse of the country’s economic system, and a deadlock over a power-sharing deal with the opposition.
Outside of Zimbabwe, cholera has also been reported in South Africa, recording 11 deaths, and in smaller numbers in Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia.