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Though Zimbabwe Cholera Epidemic Reduced, Risks Persist - Red Cross

The International Red Cross on Tuesday warned that while the cholera epidemic of the past 10 months in Zimbabwe has much subsided, considerable risks remain, heightened by the country's widespread food insecurity which made the epidemic more deadly.

More than 4,000 people have died in the epidemic since August 2008.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies noted that the number of cases at some 98,400 is not far from the 100,000 mark. Meanwhile, it added, Zimbabwe on a per capita basis is the most food aid dependent country in the world with 65% to 80% of its population now dependent on humanitarian food distributions.

The Red Cross added that food shortages are undermining "stunted efforts" to provide antiretroviral drugs to prolong the lives of those struggling to live with HIV/AIDS.

Peter Muchengeti, chairman in Midlands province of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations confirmed the thrust of the Red Cross report, telling reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while food has become available on store shelves, the situation remains dire for many people without hard currency.

Elsewhere, the Global Health Council and three other groups Tuesday named Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, managing director of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights the 2009 recipient of the Jonathan Mann Award for global health and human rights.

The announcement by the Association François-Xavier Bagnoud, Health Right International, John Snow, Inc. and the Global Health Council cited the physician's work in investigating, with the U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights, the cholera epidemic which raged in the country in late 2008 and early 2009, and the simultaneous collapse of the state health system, as well as Dr. Gwatidzo's support of health workers and advocacy of an end to state violence.

Dr. Gwatidzo will be presented the award on Thursday at the Global Health Council's annual international conference in Washington.

Dr. Gwatidzo told reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the award would help to uplift Zimbabwe's overburdened health workers.

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