Zimbabwe declares cholera emergency in capital after death toll rises to 20

Zimbabwe’s health system is beset by huge problems, ranging from shortages of staff and drugs to a lack of clean water. The WHO’s decision to honour President Robert Mugabe as a ‘goodwill ambassador’ was greeted by many with shock or derision (AFP)

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe declared a cholera outbreak in the capital Harare after 20 died from the disease and more than 2,000 people were infected after drinking contaminated water, new Health Minister Obadiah Moyo said on Tuesday.

Harare city council has struggled to supply water to some suburbs for more than a decade, forcing residents to rely on water from open wells and community boreholes.

The latest cholera outbreak came after burst sewers in Budiriro and Glenview suburbs contaminated water in boreholes and open wells, which are used by residents, said Moyo, who was flanked by Harare’s new mayor and other health officials.

“We are declaring an emergency for Harare. This will enable us to contain cholera, typhoid and whatever is going on. We don’t want any further deaths,” Moyo said after touring a hospital treating patients in the capital.

The health minister said the selling of meat and fish by vendors in the affected suburbs had been banned and the police had been asked to enforce the ban.

Moyo said the government had suspended classes at some schools in two suburbs at the epicentre of the outbreak and had also asked for help from the United Nations agencies and private companies to supply portable water.

Zimbabwe suffered its biggest cholera outbreak in 2008 at the height of an economic crisis when more than 4,000 people died and another 40,000 were treated after being infected.

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