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Cholera kills 300 in battered Zimbabwe

  • Story Highlights
  • WHO reports 294 dead, 6,072 cases in Zimbabwe cholera outbreak
  • WHO: Outbreak likely to continue as water and sanitation situation is worsening
  • It says situation is being made worse by collapsing health system
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Nearly 300 people have died from a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe that is compounded by the country's collapsing health-care system, according to the World Health Organization.

The Geneva-based organization said Friday that 294 people have died of the disease and that a total 6,072 cases had been reported between August and this Tuesday. The organization noted a marked increase over the past two weeks.

"The outbreak is likely to continue as the water and sanitation situation is worsening, with severe shortages of potable water, sewage and waste disposal problems reported in most of the populated areas," the statement said.

Health officials say the water-borne disease is spreading fast because of the poor sanitation or contaminated water which Zimbabweans are using for drinking and to prepare food.

The nation's capital, Harare, has not imported adequate supplies of chemicals to treat water, resulting in citizens resorting to shallow wells and rivers for water, according to health advocates.

The situation in Zimbabwe has been compounded by a collapsing health delivery system.

Government hospitals have closed as doctors and nurses stopped reporting for duty, citing archaic equipment and poor compensation, the WHO said.

Four main hospitals in Harare have stopped admitting patients because of a medicine shortage, said the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights.

Another hospital in the second largest city of Bulawayo -- 439 km (272 miles) from Harare -- is facing a similar shortage

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