The death toll in the cholera epidemic that has been ravaging Zimbabwe for weeks climbed to 1,174 on Tuesday, according to the United Nations Children's Fund or UNICEF, with the case total mounting to 23,712 despite a stepped up pace of international relief efforts.

UNICEF said about five people in 100 hit with the disease have died, compared with the one percent fatality rate considered normal internationally, wire reports said.

UNICEF blamed contamination of the water supply as the main reason for the rapid spread of the disease across the country with hot spots in Harare, Beitbridge on the border with South Africa, and Chegutu in Mashonaland West province.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Beitbridge that medical sources there fear a further cholera surge on the back of holiday travel.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it is increasing its response to the cholera crisis in Zimbabwe.

VOA's Lisa Schlein in Geneva reported that the group is appealing for more than US$9 million to relieve one and a half million people in the next seven months.

Elsewhere, a leading Western charity in Zimbabwe said the level of child malnutrition is rising, while the United Nations says half the country's population needs emergency food aid and its stocks of food will last only a few more weeks, Peta Thornycroft reported.

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