US warns of worsening cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe

December 12th, 2008 - 6:18 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 12 (DPA) The US has warned that the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is worsening and announced millions of dollars in spending to combat the disease.US officials refuted a declaration by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe that the cholera epidemic was over. The US Agency for International Development announced it will provide $6.2 million to fight the cholera outbreak in addition to the $4.6 million already spent.

“We are not seeing that it has stopped,” Henrietta Fore, head of USAID, said Thursday. “We currently have a report that there are approximately 800 deaths (and) 16,000 people infected. This is a cholera outbreak that is ongoing and urgent.”

Fore and the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, briefed reporters in Washington on the dire situation in Zimbabwe, where water supply, sanitation and state health and education services have crumbled as the country’s economy caves under eight years of hyperinflation and mismanagement.

“Mugabe said that there is no longer a crisis,” McGee said. “This just shows how out of touch he is with the reality on the ground in Zimbabwe.”

President George W. Bush Tuesday joined a growing group of world leaders calling on Mugabe, 84, to step down and end the tyrannical rule that included murdering and beating political opponents.

Mugabe has heavily cracked down on dissidents to maintain a grip on his 28-year-rule as the country deteriorates toward a failed state.

“One man and his cronies, Robert Mugabe, are holding this country hostage,” McGee said. “And Zimbabwe is rapidly deteriorating into failed state status.”

Mugabe, told a gathering of party supporters at the funeral for a senior member of his Zanu-PF party on Thursday, that the West was exaggerating the threat posed by cholera to justify a military invasion.

“Now there is no cholera, there is no cause for war,” he said.

The United Nations has warned that half of the country’s population will suffer from food shortages unless there is greater international assistance.

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