Robert Mugabe appeals for body bags as cholera deaths toll rises

Cape Town – Zimbabwean strongman, Robert Mugabe's regime has asked for supplies of body bags to deal with the staggering deaths toll of people who "are dying in numbers", according to the World Health Organisation representative in South Africa, Stella Anyangwe.

And according to Health Minister Barbara Hogan the statement from Zimbabwe that there is no crisis there cannot have come from the government, since there is no government there. "It only comes from one section," she said

Anyangwe and Hogan were speaking in Pretoria on Wednesday at a media briefing on the cholera epidemic.

The body bags which Zimbabwe has asked for were among a list of medical and other supplies needed to fight the epidemic there.

The long list of supplies includes tents for temporary hospital wards, cholera beds with a hole in the centre of the mattress, torches and batteries and gas lamps, because of the absence of electricity, latex gloves to help protect the medical staff, and buckets with lids to try to keep water supplies clean.

According to Anyangwe, the total cost of the list of supplies requested in Zimbabwe amounts to $117 600.

Hogan said that South Africa has a comprehensive and coherent strategy to deal with the outbreak on this side of the border – which she emphasised is not at crisis level.

However, a nine-point action plan has been adopted by a multi-sectoral committee together with a national outbreak response team.

The plan stresses the need to revise and strengthen South Africa’s plan to deal with cholera, and to deal with cases of cholera in high-density areas such as Johannesburg, with hospitals informed of the need for admission of anyone with severe symptoms.

In the meantime the Home Affairs Department is dealing kindly with sick Zimbabweans, allowing them in for treatment.

"There is a need to ensure we do not drive people with symptoms of cholera underground," Hogan said. "But that they are able to seek and receive treatment."

She added: "We must treat anyone with a communicable disease. We cannot say this person is not local and therefore should not be treated. By treating those with symptoms of communicable diseases we will protect everyone in the community."

The military health service has been called in to lend a hand in Musina where most victims of the outbreak are hospitalised.

But the minister also stressed: "We don’t have a problem in South Africa widespread enough to stretch our resources."

She said South Africa is prepared to help Zimbabwe in anyway that is needed. Zimbabwe itself has handed over responsibility for dealing with the outbreak to the World Health Organisation, which is coordinating the response of other partners there.  I-Net Bridge (News24)