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World Health Organization Issues Sobering Statistics On Zimbabwe Cholera Toll

The World Health Organization has begun to issue daily updates on the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe which include comprehensive and sobering statistics by locale showing the cholera death count relentlessly rising while the fatality rates for some cities, towns and districts are shockingly high in comparison with international norms for the disease.

The WHO cholera update through Monday, Dec. 29, showed an increase of 1,268 cases and 43 deaths for cumulative totals of 30,365 and 1,608, respectively.

The WHO provided the cumulative cholera fatality rates for more than 50 locales - in some cases shockingly high. For instance, the fatality rate in Chitungwiza, the Harare satellite town hit early on in the epidemic, was 17.5%, compared with 3.3% for Harare itself.

In Mutoko, Mashonaland East province, fatalities have run at 20.8% with 32 deaths out of a total of 154 cases. In Makoni, Manicaland province, the death rate was 12.7% with 42 deaths from 332 cases. But in Beitbridge, a bustling town on the border with South Africa, the rate was just 3% despite the 3,702 cases reported - perhaps because many residents of Beitbridge headed for Musina, South Africa, to seek emergency treatment.

Nationally the cumulative death rate was 5.3% - still well over the 1% fatality rate which health experts say is the international norm.

For an interpretation of the data, reporter Patience Rusere reached epidemics spokesman Gregory Hartl of the World Health Organization in Geneva, who said there is nothing in the recent statistics to suggest the spread of cholera is slowing.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...