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Zimbabwe Cholera Deaths Surpass 1,700, But WHO Official Sees Progress

Health agencies and NGOs are stepping up cholera awareness campaigns in Zimbabwe, as the death toll and number of reported cases rise.

Dr. Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the World Health Organization’s Global Cholera Task Force, spoke from Geneva to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the latest figures in the cholera epidemic.

“We have currently 34,306 cases and 1,732 deaths. That’s cumulative cases from August up to 5th of January,” she says.

She says that progress is being made despite the continuing rise in reported cases and deaths.

“We’re starting to see that the epidemic is starting now to decline. And especially when we break down the occurrence of cases by week, we see that in fact during the last week, up to the 3rd of January, there was quite an important decrease in the number of cases that have been reported from all over Zimbabwe,” she says.

There are also signs that reported cholera cases along the border with South Africa have also started to stabilize. Many Zimbabweans have crossed into South Africa seeking medical treatment for the disease.

The rains have arrived in Zimbabwe and many fear that will fuel the spread of the water-borne disease. Dr. Chaignat says, “We know that rains in this part of the world can contribute to spreading the epidemic. And what we have to know now is that the teams and the country better organize in responding to the epidemic currently. So we hope that they will be able to manage the situation.”

The WHO official says she cannot speculate on when the cholera may be brought under control, adding, “We have to see day by day and week by week how the situation is improving.”

Chaignat says that the Zimbabwe government is fully cooperating in efforts to end the cholera epidemic.