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Report Predicts Zimbabwe To Pass 100,000 Cholera Cases, IFRC Asks For Donors To Provide $3.4 M

Despite recent gains in reducing the cholera infection rate in Zimbabwe, the total number of cases in the region will likely cross the 100,000 mark within a week or two, according to a report released on Tuesday from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Zimbabwe Red Cross, BBC reports. Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak, which has infected 98,309 people, resulting in 4,283 deaths since it began last August, is Africa’s worst in 15 years (BBC, 5/26).

The 100,000th cholera case far exceeds the “worst-case scenario” predictions made by the WHO in December that estimated 60,000 people living in Zimbabwe would become infected with the disease, and the outbreak will likely continue for some time, according to the IFRC (MacInnis, Reuters, 5/26).

The report points out that Zimbabwe’s “almost entirely collapsed water, sanitation and health systems” are to blame for the cholera spread, SAPA/AFP/Mail & Guardian reports (SAPA/AFP/Mail & Guardian, 5/26). The report also highlighted the role that malnutrition played in “enhancing the disease’s deadly efficiency,” IRIN/allAfrica.com writes (IRIN/allAfrica.com, 5/26).

That the cholera infection rate in Zimbabwe has dropped from 6% to 4.5% in recent months (DeCapua, VOA News, 5/26), “should not be seen as a complete victory,” the IFRC said (IRIN/allAfrica.com, 5/26). Instead, “the report warned that unless factors such as food insecurity, and the dilapidated sanitation and health infrastructure were addressed, further cholera outbreaks were inevitable,” according to the BBC (BBC, 5/26).

“We are in a situation today where some 4,300 people have died from a disease which is preventable,” IFRC spokesman Paul Conneally said during a news briefing in Geneva (Reuters, 5/26).

The IFRC has asked donors for $3.44 million to assist with “rehabilitating water systems, digging wells and constructing latrines” help to control Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak, the AP/Google.com reports. Late last year the IFRC attempted to raise “$9 million for an emergency response in Zimbabwe that included distributing water purification chemicals and ensuring tent hospitals had drugs and trained staff,” but received only 45% of the funds needed, forcing the group to end the operation early.

According to the AP/Google.com, a combination of distrust in President Robert Mugabe and the global economic crisis has kept donors from providing the funds necessary to rebuild Zimbabwe’s water and health infrastructure. IFRC spokesman Matthew Cochrane explained that taking steps to prevent a possible “cholera resurgence” now “would ensure aid workers are not coming to donors again in a year asking for millions in emergency funding,” AP/Google.com writes. “Cholera has retreated but it hasn’t been defeated,” Cochrane said (Bryson, AP/Google.com, 5/26).

The Sunday Mail examines how a shortage of community health workers has affected Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak. The article looks at what has lead to the health worker shortage and ways they could be attracted back to the region (Tikiwa, Sunday Mail, 5/24).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.