Zimbabwe’s government has declared a state of emergency in the capital Harare after 20 people died of cholera.
At least 2000 cases have been recorded, according to the country’s health minister Obediah Moyo, who warned the disease was spreading across Zimbabwe.
“We are declaring an emergency for Harare. This will enable us to contain the cholera, typhoid and whatever is going on, to get rid of the problem as quickly as possible,” Moyo said Tuesday while visiting areas most affected by the outbreak in the city.
Poor waste disposal systems and broken sewers which may have contaminated water sources in Harare have been blamed for the disease outbreak, the health minister said.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness that kills thousands of people worldwide each year.
In 2008, more than 4,000 people were killed in one of the worst cholera outbreaks to have hit the country, according to the World Health Organization.
UNICEF said it was assisting Zimbabwe’s government to deploy more resources to affected areas to combat the present outbreak.
“We have also alerted our regional offices and headquarters because we know this is a very serious issue, which will need quite huge investments to contain the outbreak. We are working very hard to help the government,” UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Mohamed Ayoya said.
Calvin Fambirai, head of Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights, called on the government to provide better waste disposal systems, particularly in densely-populated areas of the city to forestall future outbreaks of water-borne diseases.
“The conditions that necessitate the spread of cholera and typhoid in Zimbabwe have not changed since the 2008 outbreak. They have worsened because their is no political will to tackle it,” Fambirai said.
The disease is rare in industrialized nations but it occurs frequently in many countries in parts of Africa, especially in areas with poor or inadequate water treatment, sanitation and hygiene practices.
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is contracted by consuming food or water contaminated with the fecal bacteria Vibrio cholerae.