Zimbabwe – Cholera ravages a population weakened by hunger

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 05 Dec 2008

Zimbabwe – Cholera ravages a population weakened by hunger
More then 300,000 people already seriously weakened by lack of food are in grave danger from the cholera epidemic currently sweeping Zimbabwe, international aid agency Oxfam said.
Oxfam Australia’s Zimbabwe Co-ordinator, Paul Davenport, says the Zimbabwean government’s declaration of a national health emergency in response to the cholera outbreak was a welcome move that should help to release urgently needed assistance.
"But there is a need for a greater international response to the humanitarian crisis. People have been going without enough food for months. They are hungry, weak, and vulnerable to infection. Some donors, including the Australian Government, have immediately made sums available, and that will make a real difference,” Mr Davenport said.
“But it’s far from enough. Unless the international community steps up to provide more money for food and medical assistance immediately, the already dire situation will get much worse,” he said.
"Millions of people were already facing starvation. With unemployment over 80 percent, and food unavailable across the country, they now have to contend with cholera and other diseases as the water and sanitation systems break down. With the rainy season upon us, the epidemic will spread even more rapidly.”
“Aid agencies urgently need support from the international community to scale up their efforts,” he said.
Mr Davenport said ordinary Zimbabweans desperately needed health care, clean water and sanitation.
“Cholera, a water-borne disease, has surged due to the breakdown of city sewerage systems, poor maintenance of water supply systems, including hand pumps, severe drinking water shortages, and the lack of basic hygiene items such as soap,” Mr Davenport said.
“The UN has indicated that more than 5 million people will urgently need food aid by January – that makes them much more vulnerable to the cholera outbreak.”
Oxfam’s cholera response will now be scaling up to target 615 000 people, and focusing on three worst hit areas: Beitbridge on the South African border; Budiriro, a suburb of Harare; and Mudzi, an area bordering Mozambique. Oxfam also plans to start moving into areas where cholera has not hit, to proactively prevent the spread of the disease.
“We are very concerned that unless donors pledge additional money now, the cholera outbreak will get worse. The EU’s decision to provide 9 million euros to help deal with the cholera crisis is a good example of the sort of international response needed. No-one should wait for a political solution in Zimbabwe before pledging to help – this will be too late for millions of vulnerable Zimbabweans,” Mr Davenport said.

For more information or to interview Paul Davenport, please contact Kate Thwaites on 0407 515 559