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Zimbabwe Rural Areas Target of Cholera Awareness Efforts

In Zimbabwe, efforts to stop the spread of cholera continue, but the rainy season is helping fuel the epidemic. The latest figures from UN health officials say that since August more than 2100 people have died among the more than 40,000 cases reported. The average fatality rate for cholera in Zimbabwe is just over five percent. However, the rate for the current epidemic is more than 12.5 percent.

Heron Holloway is a communications manager for the International Federation of the Red Cross. From Harare, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the vepidemic.

“It’s very hard to…pinpoint because the minute the cholera outbreak is…put under control in one area…there is a flare-up in another area. So…it’s pockets. And so people are…tackling the situation as it occurs and then when it subsides, they’re having to help elsewhere,” she says.

As a result, the Red Cross, including the local Zimbabwe chapter, is operating many hygiene and cholera awareness campaigns in Zimbabwe. Holloway says that some 30,000 volunteers are ”going household to household and village to village, especially in those…far flung, hard to reach communities where access to medical centers…might be difficult.”

The flare-ups are caused, in part, by a combination of lack of awareness and the onset of the rainy season, “which is when cholera cases typically peak. And so when the ground is saturated and there’s running water over the ground it potentially can put excrement into drinking water,” she says.

At the first signs of suspected cholera, Holloway says a mixture of water, salt and sugar can help rehydrate the body, which is losing fluids rapidly through diarrhea and vomiting. But the water must be boiled first and later kept covered to prevent contamination from other sources.