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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Says Cholera Death Toll "Dramatically" Understated

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told a gathering of health advocates and policy makers Thursday that the number of deaths from the cholera epidemic that has swept the country since late 2008 is probably “dramatically” understated by official figures.

Mr. Tsvangirai vowed to restore the state health care system, much of which shut down late last year as many doctors, nurses and support staff walked out over compensation and the deplorable conditions in which they had to work in public hospitals and clinics.

In a speech to a Harare gathering of health experts and representatives of organizations involved in the health care system, Mr. Tsvangirai declared that his government is committed to overhauling the state health care delivery system within 100 days. He voiced confidence that the ambitious plan was feasible if government and other stakeholders cooperated.

Describing the cholera epidemic as a “national trauma,” Mr. Tsvangirai said the death toll now closing in on 4,000 was “most likely a dramatic understatement” of the impact because many cases of cholera and deaths in rural communities are not reported to authorities.

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

Dr. Amon Siveregi, chairman of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye that Mr. Tsvangirai's assertion is correct because many of those in rural communities whose relatives have died at home do not report the deaths.

He said the biggest obstacle to stopping the epidemic is a shortage of funding.

More reports from VOA’s Studio 7 For Zimbabwe…