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Zimbabwean and International Authorities Watchful for Flooding, Cholera


Fernando Arroyo, United Nations Humanitarian Affairs chief in Zimbabwe, said his office is continuing efforts to curb the cholera outbreaks, but added that with the rainy season in progress resources could be stretched

Global health and humanitarian organizations said cholera remains a threat in Zimbabwe with dozens of new cases reported in recent weeks amid regional flooding.

World Health Organization sources said 71 suspected cases of cholera were reported in early January. They said cases have surfaced in Bikita, Masvingo province, Zvimba, Mashonaland West province and Mutare and Buhera in Manicaland province.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said cholera had spread to 20 districts by the end of 2010 with some 1,000 cases causing 22 deaths.

The continued outbreaks are blamed on poor sanitation and contaminated water.

Fernando Arroyo, United Nations Humanitarian Affairs chief in Zimbabwe, said his office is continuing its efforts to curb the new cholera outbreaks, but cautioned that with the rainy season in progress resources could be stretched.

Health organizations are urging Zimbabweans to take precautions such as boiling water or using water purification tablets. Dr. Lincoln Sarimari, a WHO disease prevention and control officer, told reporter Tatenda Gumbo that such steps are critical.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Department of Civil Protection Services said there has been no heavy flooding following the opening of Kariba Dam floodgates to ease rising pressure from heavy rains. But the agency says the country remains on high alert.

Civil Protection Services Department Deputy Director Sibusisiwe Ndlovu said a buildup of water could still lead to flooding in northeastern Zimbabwe. Neighboring Mozambique has been more heavily affect by floods, which have caused scores of deaths. South Africa has also experienced heavy flooding and loss of life in recent weeks.

Ndlovu told reporter Patience Rusere that her department is remaining vigilant.

The International Federation of the Red Cross says it is expanding relief efforts to the area, in particular providing clean water and water purification tablets.

IFRC Disaster Management Coordinator Abdulkair Farid said there are concerns that with memories still fresh of the 2008-2009 cholera epidemic which claimed more than 4,200 lives, there are concerns flooding could promote the spread of the disease.

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