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UN: Cholera Death Toll Continues to Rise in Zimbabwe

Although President Robert Mugabe says cholera in Zimbabwe has stopped, many continue to die according to United Nations statistics. In one town, close to Harare, 20 percent of those who catch the disease have been dying.

Despite the rising death toll, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe claims that the country's cholera outbreak is over, dismissing international calls that he should step down amid the crisis.

At a state funeral for a ruling party official held on Thursday, Mugabe repeated accusations that the West wanted to use the cholera crisis as an excuse to topple the government.

"Because of cholera Mr. Brown want military intervention," he said. "Sarkozy wants military intervention. Bush wants military intervention, because of cholera. But I am happy to say, our doctors, being assisted by other and the WHO [World Health Organization], have now arrested cholera. So now that there is no cholera there is no cause for war anymore. Let's tell them that the cholera cause doesn't exist anymore."

On Friday rain began falling heavily around the worst-hit areas, and the U.N. says it fears this will spark even more contracting the preventable and easily treatable disease.

The Southern African Development Community, or SADC, has held a meeting of its health and water officials. Thami Mseleku, from the South African health ministry said the cholera crisis in Zimbabwe was unprecedented.

"One, we have a cholera challenge and it's of a massive magnitude in Zimbabwe," he said. "Although there have been challenges of cholera in Zimbabwe like every other country and they have been able to manage them, this one is of a magnitude that is unprecedented and is already effecting other neighboring states and South Africa, as you know, is one of them. So, firstly that is the picture that is emerging and that we need to deal with that challenge per se."

Chitungwisa, a town adjacent to Harare, has some of the worst statistics for deaths from cholera. More than 20 percent of those treated for cholera have died, as opposed to two percent for greater Harare.

Most of Zimbabwe's main hospitals have been closed for weeks now as health professionals say there is not enough equipment or drugs from the Ministry of Health.

Meanwhile, there are reports that six more Movement for Democratic Change activists have been abducted, this time from a small town, Headlands, about 80 kilometers southeast of Harare.

This brings the number of people abducted this week to seven.

More than 20 MDC supporters and human rights workers have been abducted by groups of men in the last six weeks.