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Relief Effort In Zimbabwe Cholera Epidemic Focuses On 'Community Deaths'

A spokeswoman for the United Nations Children's Fund said Thursday that cholera fatalities continue to mount at a fast pace because many people who contract the disease have not been able to reach one of the 270 treatment centers set up around the country.

UNICEF Spokeswoman Tsitsi Singizi noted that those who are able to get to the centers and benefit from free medical care are much less likely to die of the disease.

Fatality rates in treatment centers are some 2.1% compared with the nationwide average of 5.2% out of the 58,993 cases recorded over the past six months, according to the latest update published by the World Health Organization on its Web site.

So-called community deaths where patients succumb to the disease before they can reach a treatment center accounted for 61.2% of the 3,095 deaths from the epidemic.

Singizi told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye that the disease is widespread, hitting 85% of the country's districts, so it has become much more difficult to control.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee toured a cholera treatment center in the Harare suburb of Budiriro where he visited patients and met with medical staff.

McGee witnessed the distribution of soap, oral rehydration solution and other items provided with US$6.8 million relief funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

McGee told journalists that the government of Zimbabwe had failed to protect its citizens, as correspondent Sylvia Manika of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

More reports from VOA's Studio7 for Zimbabwe…