International and Southern African regional humanitarian officials were expressing growing concern over deteriorating health and sanitation conditions in Zimbabwe where the official death toll from a cholera epidemic on Thursday approached 400.
Deputy Health Minister Edwin Muguti told state television the death toll had risen to 386 from 9,363 cases. Though he earlier said the epidemic was under control, he said on Thursday that it was likely to worsen in coming weeks as the rainy season progressed.
"It is very regrettable that people are dying of cholera. With the onset of the rainy season, the situation could worsen," Muguti told state television, Reuters reported.
The Harare government reportedly sought international help in obtaining body bags.
VOA Correspondent Scott Bobb reported from Johannesburg.
As the cholera outbreak continued unabated, sources told VOA that at least 300 people have died at Harare's Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital alone, close to the death toll of 366 announced earlier this week by United Nations Health and Humanitarian officials.
Correspondent Sylvia Manika of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.
The humanitarian arm of the United Nations has voiced its concern on the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the situation is acute and likely to get worse.
For perspective on the complex humanitarian emergency developing in Zimbabwe, reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Advocacy Officer Gladys Hlatshwayo and World Food Program Spokesman Richard Lee.
Hlatshwayo, who has been traveling around the country assessing conditions, said that the situation is becoming truly dire as the impacts of hunger and disease combine.