23 December 2008

5.5 mil need food in Zim

Some 5.5 million people in Zimbabwe - about half the population - need food aid, UN experts warned as they called for increased international help.

Some 5.5 million people in Zimbabwe - about half the population - need food aid, UN experts warned Monday as they called for increased international help for the country which is battling a cholera epidemic.

"The government and the international community must do more to rebuild the health system, end the cholera epidemic, and ensure adequate food for all people," four UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.

The UN said Friday that 1 123 people had been killed by cholera with about 21 000 reported cases.

Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, said there is "just not enough food" in Zimbabwe which was once the bread basket of Africa.

"An estimated 5.5 million people may need food assistance," he said.

The official population of Zimbabwe is about 12 million people but experts say many of those have fled the country and the true figure is 11 million or less.

Special Rapporteur on health rights, Anand Grover highlighted the medical crisis facing the country as main public hospitals were closed because of the lack of medical supplies, doctors and nurses.

"Zimbabwe's health system has completely collapsed - it cannot control the cholera outbreak which is spreading throughout the country, with a daily increase in the death toll," he said.

With the rainy season approaching, experts fear the crisis will deteriorate.

Cholera is the latest crisis to hit President Robert Mugabe's government which is also battling hyper-inflation, severe food shortages and chronic political instability.

The statement was also signed by an expert on safe drinking water and sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque and human rights defenders expert Margaret Sekaggya. – (Sapa-AFP)

Read more:
Cholera Centre
Cholera spreads in Limpopo

December 2008


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