The International Red Cross has deployed seven emergency response units to Zimbabwe in a bid to bring under control a cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 1,500 lives.

Such units, which will provide medical care and increase the availability of safe drinking water, are deployed only in ?critical humanitarian situations,? a Red Cross statement said.

The Red Cross said it hopes to deliver services to 1.5 million Zimbabweans by July, indicating that it anticipates a long battle to stop the spread of the disease.

The World Health organization reported 30,938 cases of cholera to date in the country, with 1,551 deaths through Tuesday, when another 630 cases were documented.

Abdul Abdulkadir, the Red Cross disaster management coordinator for Southern Africa, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the continually rising death toll indicates a critical humanitarian situation demanding an aggressive response.

He said the emergency response units will be working closely with the Ministry of Health.

A spokesman for the international relief group Medicins Sans Frontières, which took an early lead treating victims, also called the situation dire. MSF Coordinator Marcus Bahamann said the group is doing all it can but has limited resources to meet ?massive? needs.

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