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Cholera Cases Exceed 60,000 in Zimbabwe

The World Health Organization is calling for urgent action to tackle the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe. WHO reports the number of cholera cases in Zimbabwe has exceeded its nightmare scenario of 60,000.

The World Health Organization is calling for urgent action from the international and national communities to reverse the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe.

WHO Assistant Director-General, Eric Laroche, says cholera cases in Zimbabwe have soared passed the worst-case scenario of 60,000. He says this is far too high.

"It is going to continue within Zimbabwe and there are chances that is going to continue and to spill over to also to neighboring countries. The number of deaths is rising to 3,000, 100 people since August, because the epidemic started in August and unless we have drastic action, we are not going to get out of this epidemic soon," he said. "We have to make an extraordinary effort to response to an extraordinary situation…Otherwise, people are going to succumb and die even more."

The World Health Organization reports the cholera epidemic has spread from the urban centers into the rural areas, where facilities for treating the disease are even more primitive than they are in the cities.

It warns half of Zimbabwe's population is at risk from cholera because of poor living conditions. WHO says there is a total collapse of the country's health care, water and sewage systems.

It says health care workers are not reporting for work because they are not being paid. It identifies this as the single most important reason why an increasing number of cholera sufferers are dying.

WHO's Cholera Task Force Coordinator, Claire-Lise Chaignat, says it is particularly difficult to treat cholera in the rural areas because they are under-equipped and under-staffed.

"The epidemic is really present in the provinces. It is jumping from one area to the other. It is mushrooming and that is why it is so out-of-control because it is very difficult to anticipate where the next outbreak is going to occur," said Chaignat. "And, due to the fact that the whole infrastructure is decayed and it is the same all over the country, it is in fact very difficult to see where we need to do the preventive actions as a priority because everything should be dealt within the same time."

Zimbabwe is in a state of financial and social collapse. Its inflation rate has spiraled out of control, making the local currency worthless.

WHO's Eric Laroche warns the outbreak will continue unabated unless political differences are put aside. He says Zimbabwe's impoverished health workers must be paid and the country's health system must be bolstered.

He says all this takes money and very little is to be had.

The United Nations reports it has received no response to its $567 million humanitarian appeal for Zimbabwe this year.