US says Zimbabwe cholera outbreak worsening

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe was worsening, contradicting Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's assertion that the crisis had been contained.

The U.S. government’s aid agency USAID said it was providing an additional $6.2 million toward health, water and sanitation programs and had deployed a five-man disaster relief team to help combat the outbreak. This was on top of the $4.6 million it was already spending, it said.

Mugabe said in a television speech that his government had "arrested" the epidemic, which has so far killed nearly 800 people, infected 16,000 and led to a chorus of renewed calls by international leaders for him to step down.

"We are not seeing that it has stopped. This is a cholera outbreak that is ongoing and urgent. This is clearly a humanitarian crisis," USAID administrator Henrietta Fore told a news conference in Washington.

"This cholera outbreak did not happen overnight. Over the years, Zimbabwe’s health system has deteriorated and infrastructure has collapsed. Poor water and sanitation systems coupled with the increasingly inaccessible health and other services has caused the outbreak," she said.