International Medical Corps Deploys Assessment Team Into Zimbabwe in Response to Deadly Cholera Outb

International Medical Corps is responding to a rapidly escalating outbreak of cholera in Zimbabwe that has killed almost 600 people so far, out of nearly 14,000 suspected cases. Some authorities put the number of deaths at over 1,000. The World Health Organization called it the worst outbreak in the country since a 1992 epidemic that killed 3,000.

"We are extremely concerned at how widely cholera has spread unchecked
through the population and the lack of resources that exist to battle
it,"

said International Medical Corps’ Patrick Mweki, who arrived in the
capital of Harare two days ago to assess the need. "Nine of the
country’s ten provinces have reported cases and people are in desperate
need of basic medical care and clean water, in particular."

A spokeswoman for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs said: "The entire health system is collapsing, there are no
more doctors, no nurses, no specialists." Many health workers are
reportedly on strike because they have not been paid or have simply
deserted hospitals and health centers as the crisis grows.

After previously insisting there was no need for alarm over the
outbreak, the government of Zimbabwe, which has been in the throes of a
crippling economic and political crisis, made an urgent appeal Thursday
for international help and declared a national emergency. The European
Commission responded with a pledge of more than $12 million in aid; the
British have offered almost $15 million.

Meantime, hundreds of people each day have begun streaming into
neighboring South Africa, sparking fears that the epidemic could spread
beyond Zimbabwe’s border. The World Health Organization says the
average death rate among infected Zimbabweans was 4.5 percent in
November, and as high as 20-30 percent in remote areas. The normal
fatality rate, where clean water and medication are available is below
one percent.

Since its inception nearly 25 years ago, International Medical Corps’

mission has been to relieve the suffering of those impacted by war,
natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services
that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves
is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For
more information visit our website at www.imcworldwide.org

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