Zimbabwe past ‘worst case scenario’: Red Cross

February 10th, 2009 - 9:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Geneva, Feb 10 (DPA) Warning that the cholera crisis in Zimbabwe had surpassed the initially estimated “worst case scenario”, the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC) said Tuesday that it was also concerned the outbreak would spread more aggressively to other countries.

“We have reached more than the worst case scenario for Zimbabwe,” said John Roach, the head of the IFRC’s Africa division, noting that the number of suspected cases was on the verge of the 70,000 mark.

The World Health Organization said that it and other groups had set up treatment units along Zimbabwe’s borders to help stem the spread of the disease, but did not rule out further regional contagion.

The advent of the rainy season, aid workers warned, was increasing the dangers of cholera both in Zimbabwe and to neighbouring countries.

Zimbabwe remains the worst affected in the region, with South Africa, where there have been some 6,200 suspected cases, in a distant second place, followed by Mozambique and Zambia.

At least 3,391 people have died in Zimbabwe, as of Feb 7, according to the WHO and the Ministry of Health in Harare.

Contributing to the cholera outbreak was Zimbabwe’s food crisis, Roach said, which had reached a “catastrophic scale”, with over 7 million people in need of food aid, making the country the most reliant, per capita, in the world.

Hyperinflation, rising unemployment and other economic woes also make Zimbabwe less able to handle the crisis, particularly as the medical establishment is also affected. Many doctors do not receive salaries and cannot afford to travel to work.

The IFRC said its appeal for donations has been only partially funded, having received about $4 million of the 9 million requested. Roach warned that his teams there, conducting water and sanitation and medical assistance work, would have to pull out in a month as they were cash strapped.

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