Zimbabwean health activists on Thursday welcomed the government's decision to classify the cholera epidemic which has claimed nearly 600 lives a national emergency.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa made the declaration on Wednesday and asked for help from the international community to treat the sick and stop the spread of the disease.

Chairman Douglas Gwatidzo of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights in an interview with reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe welcomed the decision by Dr. Parirenyatwa but said it was late in coming.

Dr. Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the World Health Organization's global task force on cholera, told VOA's Joe De Capua that official death figures probably understate the toll.

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