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Cholera Outbreak In Harare As Zimbabwe Health Care System Crashes


Cholera has broken out in the Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, after claiming scores of lives in the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza and Chinhoyi, capital of Mashonaland West province, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported on Friday.

The newspaper said four people have died in Harare, including one child, while another 60 people were being treated at the Beatrice Infectious Disease Hospital in the Harare suburb of Mbare.It quoted Harare Health Services Director Stanley Mungofa as saying the outbreak was the worst seen in Harare since 2005.

City health authorities warned that the number of cases could be higher than reported, and that other recent deaths might have been caused by cholera.

Combined Harare Residents Association Chairman Simbarashe Moyo told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he blamed the Zimbabwe National Water Authority for failing to provide the metropolis with clean drinking water.

The cholera outbreak comes against the background of a further collapse in the national health care system with Harare hospitals significantly scaling back services.

More than 50 doctors, nurses and support staff at Harare Hospital resolved Friday to stop working until the government improves conditions in the health-care sector, as Studio 7 correspondent Sylvia Manika reported.

This week the opportunistic infection clinics at Harare Hospital and Parirenyatwa Hospital effectively closed their doors as doctors and nurses went on strike to protest inadequate pay and shortages of essential drugs and medical materials.

Experts said the closures left an estimated 60,000 HIV-positive individuals struggling to maintain access to antiretroviral drugs and treatment for aids-related ailments.

Benjamin Mazhindu, chairman of the Zimbabwe Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS and Boniface Hlabano, executive director of the Matebeleland Aids Council, discussed the latest downward lurch by the health system, Mazhindu saying that while he sympathizes withmedical staff, they should appreciate the need to preserve human life.

VOA Studio 7 listeners gave personal testimony to the collapse of health care.

Obert Shumba of Bindura, Mashonaland Central province, said the local hospital mortuary has been overwhelmed by the number of corpses. Kelvin Muzondo in Masvingo, Masvingo province, said many in need of medical care don't have the option of seeking treatment at a private clinic because the cost of care has soared out of reach.

Raging hyperinflation in Zimbabwe was last measured at 231 million percent.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...