Zimbabwe to get Chinese vaccines for cholera-report

HARARE, (Reuters) – Zimbabwe, which is battling a serious cholera outbreak amid a worsening economic crisis, is set to get vaccines from China to fight the disease, state media reported on Thursday.

The state-run Herald newspaper reported that China had pledged $500,000 worth of vaccines to Zimbabwe, where UN agencies say cholera has killed 366 people and infected almost 9,000 others.

Deputy head of mission at the Chinese embassy in Harare, He Meng, told the newspaper Zimbabwe had sought China’s help in its bid to fight cholera.

"We are sympathising with the Zimbabwean people and we want to help as best as we can to stop the spread of the cholera disease that has killed many people in this country," he is quoted as saying.

Cholera is a water-borne disease that causes vomiting and acute diarrhoea, and can rapidly lead to death from dehydration. It spreads fastest in situations with poor sanitation or where contaminated water is used for drinking or for preparing food.

Zimbabwe’s infrastructure has collapsed under the burden of a severe economic crisis, highlighted by the world’s highest inflation rate above 230 million percent, leaving uncollected garbage, water shortages and broken sewers in most towns.

The health system has been hit by drug and equipment shortages, while many Zimbabwean doctors and nurses have also left the country in search of better working conditions. The country’s major public hospitals have shut down in recent weeks.

Many Zimbabweans had hoped a power-sharing deal signed by President Robert Mugabe and opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai would help rescue the ruined economy, but the agreement appears to be unravelling as the two fight for control of key ministries.