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Despite International Relief Surge, Zimbabwe Cholera Epidemic Proves Tenacious

The cholera epidemic ravaging Zimbabwe gave no sign of relenting this week with the death toll rising by 102 fatalities in 24 hours to 2,971 in statistics compiled by the World Health Organization as of Monday, and with weeks of rainy season ahead, authorities said.

The total number of cases rose to 56,123 in the latest WHO cholera update. The cumulative death rate nationally was 5.3%, well over the 1% considered normal internationally. The U.N. agency cited a cumulative "institutional case fatality rate" of 2.1%, and a daily or current institutional fatality rate of 1.2%, closer to the international norm.

On the other hand, the proportion of "community deaths," those occurring outside treatment centers, has been steadily rising from about 45% at the end of December to nearly 61% in the latest WHO statistical update, suggesting the epidemic is taking a heavy toll among residents of isolated communities without ready access to treatment centers.

From Geneva, WHO Communications Officer Paul Garwood told reporter, Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that in response to the persistence of the epidemic his organization is intensifying efforts to contain the deadly disease.

Zimbabwe-based WHO Local Representative Custodia Mandlate said cholera cases are likely to surge as the rainy season picks as more cases are reported from urban and rural areas.

Mandlate added that her organization is particularly concerned at a rise in deaths of cholera victims who succumb in their communities before they can reach treatment centers.

As of Monday the greatest number of new cholera cases were reported in Harare's Budiriro suburb, followed by Shamva, Guruve and Mbire, all in Mashonaland Central province.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe…