Over 3000 people are feared to have died so far from a severe cholera epidemic plaguing the country. With Mugabe’s regime keeping a tight lid on the number of people who have succumbed to the illness, the actual number could be much higher. Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa told Newsreel the figure of 3000 dead could most likely be for Harare alone. He said most people did not bother to register the deaths of their relatives and this provided an added challenge to accurate record keeping.
Several Harare suburbs are recording as many as 10 deaths a day. Making the situation worse is that even people suffering from malaria are being dumped in cholera clinics, where they end up contracting the disease. This is because some of the symptoms between the two diseases are so similar. Differentiating them is proving difficult under the circumstances of a collapsed health system.
The World Health Organization says over 8000 people have been infected by the disease. Insiders however say local authorities, police and Home Affairs officials have been warned against divulging the real figures. With erratic water supplies in most cities, coupled with the lack of treatment chemicals, the water borne cholera has spread easily.
While the population battles the tragic realities of the disease the regime continues playing politics. The government on Wednesday announced it would not declare the outbreak a national emergency, claiming it had the disease ‘under control’. Deputy Health Minister Edwin Mugutu blamed the west for the outbreak saying ‘Western governments must like what they see with the cholera outbreak because it is their illegal sanctions that caused it.’
His remarks were immediately slammed by critics who blame the government’s failed policies for an economic crisis that has led to the collapse of just about everything, including the health system. The west has also continued to fund humanitarian aid programmes to the country. Critics also point to the irony of Muguti’s argument, in that it is actually government which has been banning or interfering with humanitarian work in the country.
Meanwhile the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition reports that 9 people have died of cholera since Monday in Gweru’s high density suburb of Mkoba. The group says at least 7 prisoners died from the disease at Harare’s Remand Prison according to sources there.