Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Red Cross: Zimbabwe Cholera Cases to Top 100,000

Via Yahoo! News (AP) -

The cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, the worst in Africa in more than 15 years, is slowing but is still expected to reach 100,000 cases this week, the Red Cross said Tuesday.

The Red Cross is appealing to donors, who have responded only reluctantly in the past, for more money to help keep the disease under control.

In a report, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the outbreak of the waterborne disease has killed almost 4,300 people since August 2008.

"We stand now within days of 100,000 cases," said Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane, adding that milestone had appeared unimaginable just a few months ago.

Cochrane said the outbreak 15 years ago killed 12,000 people in camps in what was then Zaire, as refugees fled turmoil following the genocide in Rwanda. What makes Zimbabwe's outbreak stand out, Cochrane said, was that it spread so quickly and was so deadly in a country at peace.

According to figures compiled by the U.N.'s World Health Organization, more than 98,000 cholera cases have been recorded in Zimbabwe since August.

Custodia Mandlhate, head of WHO's Zimbabwe operations, said in an e-mail that the outbreak appeared under control, but added that "our main challenge is now to make sure that preparedness for future epidemics is done."

Cholera is usually easily treated. The scale of Zimbabwe's outbreak is blamed on the collapse of the country's water and health infrastructure following years of violent political impasse.

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