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The collapse of Zimbabwe’s infrastructure has led to a cholera outbreak that has spread to the neighboring countries of South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia.
With no clean water supply for Zimbabwe’s municipal districts, and the lack of sanitation and garbage collection, it is expected that the 14,000 people currently affected could double if action is not taken by the international community. The outbreak has spread to nine of the ten provinces, placing millions at risk of contracting the disease.
The Financial Times estimated that more than 800 people have died since the outbreak of cholera; with the beginning of the rainy season, it is expected that the disease could become a regional epidemic if not treated promptly.
The mortality rate of the outbreak is reported to be 10%. With no measures in place within Zimbabwe to curb it, the infection rate could reach more than 60,000 by March 2009.
As the ongoing internal saga wages between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai regarding who will ultimately control the country, cholera has taken a backseat in the quest for political power and negotiations between the opposing parties.
South Africa, the most dominant country in the region, has set up emergency treatment facilities at the border town of Musina to help fleeing Zimbabweans, as well as for preventing the disease from spreading into the northern province.
The Sunday Herald (Scotland) reported the following: “Amnesty International’s secretary-general, Irene Khan, bemoaned the cholera epidemic for adding to a long list of suffering. ‘It is the latest in a whole series of abuses and violations of the people,’ she said, citing massive evictions of the urban poor from their homes by Mugabe’s police and murderous attacks by Zanu PF militias on dissidents and opposition party activists.”
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was disappointed at the current situation and the way with which it was dealt.