Zimbabwe Government should declare a national health emergency

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 26 Nov 2008

The government of Zimbabwe should declare the current cholera epidemic a national health emergency, so that urgent national and international aid can be mobilised to address the outbreak, international aid agency Oxfam said today.
The disease outbreak, a result of the breakdown of basic water and sanitation services, has killed at least 300 people in the last two weeks, and infected more than 6000 across the country.
Oxfam Australia’s Zimbabwe Co-ordinator, Paul Davenport said any delay to responding to the crisis would see it spread rapidly, as the rainy season was approaching.
“The government of Zimbabwe must acknowledge the extent of the crisis and take immediate steps to mobilize all available resources to deal with the epidemic," Mr Davenport said.
Ordinary Zimbabweans are desperately short of food, health care, clean water and safe sanitation. Cholera, a water-borne disease, has spread due to the breakdown of city sewerage systems, poor maintenance of water supply systems, severe drinking water shortages, and the lack of basic hygiene items such as soap.
Oxfam has contracted 10 trucks to transport more than 200 tonnes of soap and disinfectant into Zimbabwe.
The crisis is set to worsen significantly in December, when the rainy season begins. Cholera is already starting to spread into neighbouring countries.
"Oxfam’s field assessments show an alarming deterioration of water quality and supply in clinics and hospitals. Virtually none have access to safe water, and patients often have to supply their own,” Mr Davenport said.
Oxfam is:
• Distributing soap, buckets and water purification tablets to 24 000 people.
• Rehabilitating water points in Mudzi, a district bordering Mozambique.
• Distributing 1000 hygiene kits in Beitbridge, a town close to where many Zimbabweans cross
the South African border, to families without water and sanitation. Each kit comprises a 20
litre-capacity jerrycan, 1kg soap, and aquatabs to purify 160 litres of water.
• Trucking 213 metric tonnes of soap into Zimbabwe, along with disinfectant chemicals – 3750
litres sodium hypochlorite and 550kgs of calcium hypochlorite, and 288 000 rolls of cotton
"Oxfam calls on the political parties of Zimbabwe, leaders in the region and the global community to deal with this humanitarian crisis, irrespective of the status of political negotiations. In the interest of the poorest and most vulnerable Zimbabweans, and of countries neighbouring Zimbabwe, all concerned parties need to hasten a political settlement," Mr Davenport said.
For more information or to interview Paul Davenport, please contact Kate Thwaites on 0407 515 559