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Water Faulted in 16 Diarrhea Deaths in Zimbabwe - 2003-06-25

A diarrhea outbreak in the Zimbabwean town of Chinhoyi has claimed 16 lives since last week. Health officials are blaming the outbreak on contaminated water.

The provincial medical officer in the Chinhoyi area, about 120 kilometers northwest of Harare, Wenceslas Nyamayaro, said the deaths are the result of people drinking contaminated water, which he blamed on the Chinhoyi Town Council.

Dr. Nyamayaro said the council had failed to take the necessary steps to keep the water clean. He said recent tests had revealed that the town's water had unacceptably low levels of chlorine and was unfit for human consumption.

Dr. Nyamayaro told the state-owned daily The Herald that children under five years of age accounted for the majority of the more than 500 cases of diarrhea reported in the town. He said all the cases were a result of people drinking contaminated water.

The paper further said that the town's municipality has only four of the 14 chemicals required for water treatment. A town council official is reported to have denied that charge, saying they had enough stocks of the chemicals.

Unnamed council officials told another newspaper, The Daily News, that garbage piling up in the town might have caused the outbreak. Garbage collection in Chinhoyi, like in other towns throughout Zimbabwe, has been hit by the fuel shortage that the country is experiencing.