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Zimbabwe cholera deaths near 2,000-WHO
January 13, 2009 / 12:45 PM / 9 years ago

Zimbabwe cholera deaths near 2,000-WHO

(Adds Zimbabweans deported from Zambia)

By Nelson Banya

HARARE, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic has killed 1,937 people and a total of 38,334 have contracted the normally preventable disease, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.

A cholera update dated Jan. 11 showed an increase of 25 deaths and 541 cases compared to an increase of 12 deaths and 300 cases the previous day.

The epidemic is adding to the humanitarian crisis in the country, where President Robert Mugabe and the opposition are deadlocked over a power-sharing deal and the veteran leader is resisting Western calls to step down.

The waterborne disease, which causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration, has spread to all of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces because of the collapse of health and sanitation systems. The WHO said 89 percent of the country’s 62 districts are affected.

Zimbabwe’s government has warned that the epidemic could get worse in the rainy season which peaks in January or February and ends in late March. Floods, which can affect Zimbabwe’s low-lying areas, may increase the spread of the disease.

Cholera has spread to Zimbabwe’s neighbours with at least 13 deaths and 1,419 cases in South Africa. Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia have also reported cholera cases.

Millions of Zimbabweans have fled to neighbouring countries as the crisis at home bites, in search of jobs and better living conditions, and, more recently, medical treatment.

On Tuesday an immigration spokeswoman said Zambia had deported 190 Zimbabwean illegal immigrants found sheltering at the country’s largest bus terminus in the capital Lusaka, fearing the spread of cholera.

"They came in as mere visitors but then started conducting business without valid papers. We had to act to stop the spread of cholera," spokeswoman Mulako Mbangweta told Reuters. (Additional reporting by Shapi Shacinda in Lusaka)

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