Fifty-three more cholera deaths were recorded in Zimbabwe in a single day along with 1 600 new cases, the United Nations has said, putting the death toll since August at 366 and the number of cases at 8 887.
The outbreak was also taking on a "regional dimension," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned, pointing to reports from South Africa's health ministry of suspected cholera cases in Botswana.
"The cholera outbreak is not yet under control. Reported cases have reached 8 887, with 366 deaths as at 25 November. This is an increase of 1 604 cases and 53 more deaths from the previous day," said OCHA.
It said the higher death toll was due mainly to more fatalities reported from Beitbridge, which borders South Africa. Over the weekend, South African and Zimbabwean health officials met to tackle the cholera outbreak which has also claimed lives in South Africa. South Africa's health officials said the hospital in Musina, a South African town near the Zimbabwe border, has dealt with 168 patients, three of whom have died.
Oxfam says outbreak is national health emergency
Meanwhile, global aid agency Oxfam on Tuesday called on President Robert Mugabe's government to declare Zimbabwe's deadly cholera outbreak, a national health emergency.
"Delay is not an option as this crisis could rapidly spread with the rainy season looming," said Charles Abani, Regional Director for Oxfam in Southern Africa. "The government of Zimbabwe should declare the current cholera epidemic a national health emergency... so that urgent national and international aid can be mobilised to address the outbreak. The government of Zimbabwe must acknowledge the extent of the crisis and take immediate steps to mobilise all available resources to deal with the epidemic," Abani said.
He said field studies had shown an "alarming deterioration" of water quality and supply to clinics and hospitals with virtually none having access to safe water.
South African health officials confirmed that Zimbabwean cholera patients continued to cross the border into a hospital in the frontier town of Musina.
All hospitals on high alert
"People are still coming to the Musina hospital on daily basis," Phuti Seloba, spokesman for Musina's health department said. "
His counterpart in the coastal city of Durban, where a truck driver died on Saturday of cholera after a visit to Zimbabwe, said that all hospitals in the province have been placed on high alert.
"This is a cholera season," Leon Mbangwa said. Health experts from the two countries who met at the weekend to lay out a plan for tackling the outbreak, were in regular contact, Seloba said. – (Sapa, November 2008)
Zim patients coming to SA
Zim docs protest health system