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Health Staff Shortages Hinder Fight Against Zimbabwe Cholera Epidemic

Deaths from the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe have officially topped 3,000, the World Health Organization said in a statistical update released on Wednesday. The tally through Tuesday reported 3,028 deaths from a total of 57,702 cases since August.

Relief efforts have been hindered by shortages of qualified staff in treatment centers, said Dr. Custodia Mandlhate, the WHO's country representative. She said the U.N. agency is working with others to provide incentives to draw nurses and doctors back into service.

Most state-sector health workers walked off the job last October over pay and other issues, shutting down most hospitals just as the epidemic was gathering momentum.

Dr. Mandhlate told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that more health workers are urgently needed if the epidemic is to be stopped.

Elsewhere, resident John Kanyemba of Bindura, capital of the Zimbabwean province of the same name, said water and sewage systems remain in collapse in the town and expressed the fear that the cholera epidemic will continue to claim lives there.

The international humanitarian and development organization Oxfam International expressed concern that Zimbabwean children returning to school may be exposed to cholera, saying children and their families must choose between education and survival.

Oxfam international Country Director Peter Mutoredzanwa told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that school children have not received enough information on how to avoid contracting cholera because school was out when the disease hit.

More reports from VOA's Studio7 for Zimbabwe...