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Zimbabwe Says Cholera Has Killed 425

Zimbabwe's health minister says a cholera outbreak has killed at least 425 people in his country since August.

David Parirenyatwa told Zimbabwe's state-run Sunday Mail newspaper the outbreak is likely to worsen as the rainy season begins. He says rainwater could wash human feces into shallow wells, contaminating a key water source for impoverished people.

Zimbabwe's economic crisis has led to a collapse in sewage and water systems and garbage collection. Many communities have no clean water, forcing people to dig wells and use latrines in their yards.

The head of a Zimbabwean doctors' association, Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights chairman Douglas Gwatidzo, estimates that cholera has killed more than 800 people in the country. He says determining the death toll is difficult because of what he called an information blackout by the government in the early days of the outbreak.

The Zimbabwean health minister insists the government's cholera figures are accurate, saying he discusses the outbreak with doctors around the country every day. He says the disease has infected 11,000 people in recent months.

Cholera cases also have been reported in neighboring Botswana and South Africa, prompting U.N. officials to warn the outbreak is taking on a dangerous regional dimension.

Authorities in the Zimbabwe capital, Harare, are offering free graves to families of cholera victims. A grave costs about $30, a price out of reach for most Zimbabweans struggling to cope with hyperinflation of more than 200 million percent.

Cholera causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, but is easily prevented by washing hands, cleaning foods and keeping drinking water away from sewage.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.