Saturday, January 31, 2009

CNN'S Prediction Of 60,000 Cholera Cases In Zimbabwe Proven Right

Zimbabwe cholera cases pass 60,000
World Health Organization reveals number of cholera cases is more than 60,000
Health experts believe the disease is not under control or slowing
No sanitation or clean water, piles of garbage help spread disease
President announced disease down, but numbers belie that statement
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(CNN) -- More than 60,000 people have now been infected with cholera in Zimbabwe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Tendani Baloyi, 4, gets treated for cholera in Musina, on the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
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Latest figures released Friday from the organization also show that 3,161 people have died from the disease since August 2008.

In December, WHO spokesman Paul Garwood told CNN the organization an estimated 60,000 people would be infected with cholera in the "worst case scenario."

But that number now stands at 60,401 and shows no sign of abating the agency said.

The WHO, a Geneva, Switzerland-based organization, said "drastic action," was now needed to curb one of the world's largest outbreaks of cholera.

The UN agency called for "political differences to be put aside" and for international intervention to deal with the crisis.

"We are dealing with an extraordinary public health crisis that requires from us all an extraordinary public health emergency response, and this must happen now before the outbreak causes more needless suffering and death," the WHO's Dr Eric Laroche said on its Web site.

"Political differences need to be put aside, economic barriers overcome, health services in the country's periphery strengthened and community awareness to respond enhanced to save many more people from dying due to a disease that can be readily prevented and treated, " he added.

Since August, the cholera epidemic has swept through a country wracked with a political and economic crises. It has also coincided with a nearly five-month-long strike by doctors and nurses who are demanding salaries in foreign currency.

Cholera is an intestinal disease caused by bacteria in contaminated water.

The epidemic has been aggravated by erratic water supplies, shortages of water purification chemicals, broken water and sewer pipes and uncollected garbage from a waste-disposal system that has collapsed.

Children can be seen playing on heaps of uncollected garbage in the suburbs of most urban areas in Zimbabwe.

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In early December, President Robert Mugabe's government declared the cholera epidemic a national emergency, paving the way for aid from international groups such as Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, W.H.O., the U.N. Children's Fund and USAID.

But that assistance has not yet improved the situation, and the disease has spread to new areas since then.

"The problem in Zimbabwe is that the infrastructure is obsolete, especially when it comes to water sanitation. People are going for months without tap water in towns," said Peter Hinn, the director of a German group called Welt Hunger Hilfe (World Hunger Help), which is helping to fight cholera in Zimbabwe.

"In rural areas, 60 to 70 percent of boreholes (wells) are not working. So the international community might have come in but they have to address this infrastructure."

Zimbabwe was already suffering an enormous economic crisis, with a hyperinflationary economy and shortages of all essentials including food, fuel, cash, foreign currency and electricity.

The country's rainy season peaks in January or February and ends in late March, and Zimbabwean Health Minister David Parirenyatwa warned the epidemic could get worse during that time as runoff from the rains spreads the bacteria to other rivers, streams and wells.

Mugabe declared in mid-December that the cholera epidemic had slowed, but health experts differed with him and the latest figures seem to contradict his statement. E-mail to a friend | Mixx it | Share
All About Zimbabwe • Cholera • World Health Organization • Oxfam International

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Zimbabwe Public Hospitals Force Patients To Pay With US Dollars

January 11, 2009

Zimbabwe’s sick forced to pay with US dollars

A ROMAN CATHOLIC priest called Father Seke sat in Harare last week with Blessing, a pregnant parishioner, praying for a normal birth. “Her family has struggled to find money for her birthing,” he said. “But if she needs surgery there is no more and she might pass [away].”

Like millions of other Zimbabweans, Blessing is facing punitive new charges for basic healthcare that have been imposed by the government of President Robert Mugabe as the state collapses around him.

David Parirenyatwa, his health minister, announced last week that public hospitals would be permitted to charge patients in US dollars for essential services.

State media gave examples of the new prices, including US$70 (£50) for an overnight stay in hospital. A caesarean will cost US$130 and parents of premature babies will be charged $5 a day for an incubator. Cancer patients will have to find hundreds of dollars for radiation or chemotherapy.

All the fees are far beyond the means of most people in a country where fewer than 18% are formally employed. According to the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an umbrella group of activists, all but 5% of these are paid in Zimbabwean dollars rendered almost worthless by inflation estimated at 231m%.

“The decision to take a patient on a painful journey to hospital is hard,” a Zimbabwean GP said. “There is no guarantee of treatment at the end of the journey.”

Those who do not form part of the elite must try to cobble together US dollars as best they can by selling whatever they have, or from remittances sent by family members abroad. However, Zimbabweans in other countries are among the first to be laid off as the global credit crunch bites, and resentment of the 3m of them in neighbouring South Africa is growing. Two Zimbabweans were killed in Durban last week when vigilantes searching for amakwerekwere (foreigners) hurled them from a sixth-floor window.

Parirenyatwa’s announcement came as Zimbabwe faced a cholera epidemic that, according to the World Health Organisation, has claimed at least 1,778 lives since August. Heavy December rains helped spread the disease so the crisis is likely to worsen in coming weeks.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions reacted with fury to the new health charges. “The authorities pretend to hate America yet they scramble for the American dollar,” said Gideon Shoko, who leads a railway workers’ union. “This is a display of double standards.”

The Zimbabwean dollar has been debased for the past five years by Gideon Gono, the central banker, who has printed money to fund extravagances such as the one-month holiday and shopping trip to the Far East on which Mugabe and his wife Grace have embarked.

The crisis is affecting even private hospitals. Doctors are paid in local currency worth less than US$10 a month and have stopped coming to work.

Blessing, whose labour may be only days away, is fatalistic. “It is up to God,” she said. “There is nothing I can do.”

It makes those of us in countries that are free, where healthcare, education and safety are the norm, feel so blessed and so greatful for what we DO have. Our complaints look dim in comparison to what so many other people go through on a daily basis. May God keep us(me) humble.

Christi, Austin, USA

And still the people do not rise...

Alastair Roy, LONDON, UK