Cholera remains a threat in Zimbabwe,
despite a drop in the infection rate in recent months. So says a new report
from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. In
the coming months, the 100 thousandth case of cholera in Zimbabwe is expected to
be officially reported. Nearly 4,300 people have died in the outbreak that
began last year.
Head of Media Paul Conneally, in Geneva, describes the main thrust of the
report as "the fact that cholera has not receded in Zimbabwe…. And while
Zimbabwe may have faded from the news headlines over the last few months, that
is not the same case with cholera."
Infection rate decline misleading
infection has dropped slightly from what was over six-percent at the height of
the crisis to some four-and-a-half-percent today. This is a very, very high
rate of infection in any population and is the reason why this is the worst
crisis of cholera that we've seen in Africa in more than 15 years," he says.
IFRC is calling for mid- and long-term investment to stave off the fundamental
causes of the outbreak.
report says, "The eradication of cholera in Zimbabwe or the complete conclusion
to this current epidemic is unlikely unless the underlying causes of the health
crises are addressed."
Many critical contributing factors
for the causes, Conneally says, "One of the more important ones is that while
cholera is a severe humanitarian issue in Zimbabwe, per capita, the country is
the most dependent on food aid."
World Food Program estimates up to seven million Zimbabweans may need food
assistance out of a population of about 13 million.
there is the very high prevalence of over 15 percent of the population of HIV
and AIDS. There is evidence to show that Zimbabwe's once successful
anti-retroviral (drug) rollout has begun to regress. And then, of course,
there's the maybe better-known issue of hyperinflation," he says.
to those problems is the deterioration of Zimbabwe's water and sanitation
More money needed
says thousands of Red Cross volunteers, especially in the rural areas, have
helped deal with the cholera outbreak. But he says resources to continue the
effort are in short supply.
are 50 percent under-funded for our appeal and we do need the donor community
addressing the situation more seriously than has been the case to date," he
IFRC says funding shortages forced the organization to reduce operations in Zimbabwe
Conneally says, "This is not a
situation that any humanitarian organization wants to be in. However, the
resilience of the Zimbabwean people and the skills and the dedication of the
Zimbabwean Red Cross will pull us through to a certain extent. But we need
resources to properly do the job."