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New Surge In Zimbabwe Cholera Deaths As Epidemic Sweeps Rural Areas

The cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe seems to be gathering new momentum based on figures released Thursday by the World Health Organization showing the number of deaths surging to 2,755 with the number of cases of cholera topping 48,000.

Relief organizations such as World Vision said the epidemic has shifted to rural areas where people have moved from the cities seeking to avoid the epidemic.

World Vision on Thursday announced it would provide US$4.7 million in medicine and medical equipment to help battle the persistent cholera epidemic.

Correspondent Sylvia Manika of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

Dr. Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the WHO Global Task Force on Cholera, told VOA reporter Joe De Capua that said the epidemic is far from being brought under control.

With cholera rampant despite infusions of international relief funding and staff, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, locked in a stalemate with President Robert Mugabe over the terms on which Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change would enter a unity government to take more decisive action against the epidemic, visited a Harare treatment center.

Tsvangirai said he went to the Budiriro Polyclinic Treatment Center to witness first-hand the devastating impact of the epidemic. Tsvangirai expressed dismay at the suffering and said he hoped the Southern African Development Community summit coming up next week would resolve the political crisis so the government can take more effective action.

There have been some gains in the fight against cholera, however. The International Red Cross said it would shortly restore the flow of water to 15,000 people in Chitungwiza, a Harare satellite town that was hit very hard in the epidemic's early stages.

Chitungwiza has been without running water for the 13 months.

Red Cross Water and Sanitation Coordinator Agrippa Anganyime said clean water will start flowing at designated locations in Chitungwiza on Friday under an initiative carried out with local authorities and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, or ZINWA.

Anganyime told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his organization would eventually start drilling boreholes as a step toward establishing a more sustainable supply of clean water, essential to stop the spread of cholera.

Anganyime said the Red Cross will also provide water purification kits to help local residents.

Although Anganyime said said his organization lacked funds to scale up its efforts in a major way, he said the Red Cross plans initiatives in rural areas hit by the disease.

More reports from VOA's Studio7 for Zimbabwe…