Zimbabwe cholera toll hits 121

Harare – An outbreak of cholera, the deadly diarrhoeal disease that doctors say has claimed dozens of lives in crisis-hit Zimbabwe in recent weeks, has spread to the city's crowded townships, according to state media reports

One person died in the city’s Budiriro township and 20 more from across the city were being treated for the disease in hospital, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported. Some of the cases are from areas very close to the city centre.

The death brings to 121 the number to have died of the disease this year, according to the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR).

"We are worried by the way it is spreading around the country, but we are putting in measures to eradicate it," Health Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa was quoted in the Herald as saying.

Medical sources say the problem is far more widespread than President Robert Mugabe’s authorities admit.

Since September, 16 people have died in the dormitory township of Chitungwiza on Harare’s southern outskirts.

ZADHR said the repeated outbreaks of the disease "indicates the absence of capacity and ability of the government to manage public health".

As the country’s economy collapses under the weight of multi- billion percent inflation, a health system that was once the pride of sub-Saharan Africa is also crumbling.

Observers say the health crisis is but one facet of a national disaster, which is claiming more and more lives from hunger-related diseases.

Water supplies to the crowded townships that house most of the capital’s poor have dried up, resulting in burst pipes and drains that send rivers of raw effluent running through the streets, filtering into the unprotected wells that people are forced to dig to for water.

Without an urgent operation to restore water supplies, the onset of the rainy season "could result in cholera becoming endemic," ZADHR said. – Sapa-dpa