Zimbabwe's Cholera Epidemic

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
American officials say Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice will join talks on Zimbabwe this week at the United Nations.
The State Department says the Security Council has failed to take meaningful
action to end the country’s political and health crisis. Zimbabwe faces a
cholera outbreak that also threatens its neighbors. Many Zimbabweans have crossed
the border into South Africa for treatment.
Secretary
Rice is expected to try to increase pressure on President Robert Mugabe. Her
spokesman Sean McCormack said last week that the United States wants to start a
process that will bring an end to the tragedy in Zimbabwe. And he said southern
African countries, especially, need to do more.
The
United Nations estimated that as of last week almost seventeen thousand people
were infected with cholera. Aid groups reported almost eight hundred deaths.
The outbreak grew
from a lack of water-treatment chemicals and from broken sewage pipes. Many
people are using unprotected wells for drinking water.
Cholera is a bacterial infection generally spread
through water or food. It causes vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, people
can die from a loss of fluids within hours unless they are treated.
Cholera is easily treated with oral rehydration
salts or intravenous fluids. But Zimbabwe’s health system has collapsed.
The
outbreak began in August. On December fourth the government declared a national
emergency and appealed for international aid.
But
President Mugabe has dismissed international calls to resign. He says the West
wants to use the crisis as an excuse to invade Zimbabwe. He said last week that the epidemic is under
control. But on Friday U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon disagreed, based on
reports from the World Health Organization and other agencies.
The
U.N. chief urged President Mugabe to honor a power-sharing deal with the
opposition — and to “look to the future of his country.” He said the
people of Zimbabwe have suffered too much and too long.
The United Nations has been supplying
clean water to treatment centers in Harare. And the International Red Cross has
been preparing to provide more water and other supplies. Aid groups have warned
that as many as sixty thousand people could become infected unless the outbreak
is controlled.
And
that’s the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jerilyn Watson.
I’m Steve Ember.

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