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Awareness Campaign Launched Amid Signs Zimbabwe Cholera Epidemic Slowing

The Zimbabwean government and its international partners in the battle against the cholera epidemic sweeping the country are stepping up efforts to make Zimbabweans more aware of the risks, as the death toll from the epidemic pushed through 1,700.

But a United Nations international cholera expert said there were statistical indications that the rate at which new cases were emerging across the country was decelerating.

The World Health Organization issued a statistical update saying that fatalities totaled 1,732 through Monday, while the total of cases reported mounted to 34,306.

VOA reporter Joe De Capua reached Dr. Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the WHO Global Cholera Task Force, who said recent data has been somewhat encouraging.

Dr. Chaignat said that when the figures are analyzed on a weekly basis "we see that in fact during the last week of the 3rd of January there was quite an important decrease in the number of cases that have been reported from all over Zimbabwe."

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the government and its partners have rolled out a cholera education program coupled with distribution of drugs, equipment and funds to combat the disease.

Dr. Parirenyatwa said that while the coming peak of the rainy season poses a challenge, he is cautiously optimistic because new infections have leveled off somewhat.

Dr. Chaignat acknowledged that "rains in this part of the world can contribute to spreading the epidemic, [but relief] teams and the country are better organized in responding to the epidemic currently so we hope they will be better able to manage the situation."

But, she said, "We need to continue to be vigilant, we need to continue to be alert with regards to occurrence of cases, we need to continue to do proper case management, we need to continue to do education so the population knows how to prevent [the disease] and make water safe and [to] consult if they suspect they have cholera."

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