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14 December 2008

Cholera epidemic -- consequence of Zimbabwe as it melts down / government spokesman charges it's biowar from Britain and the West

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The Associated Press (US Newswire)
Saturday 13 December 2008

Cholera introduced by West

by Angus Shaw

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Zimbabwe on Saturday accused the West of waging biological warfare to deliberately start a cholera epidemic that has killed hundreds of people and sickened thousands.

The spread of the disease has focused the world's attention on the spectacular collapse of the southern African nation, which often blames its troubles on the West.

The claims in state media came the same day the government issued an official announcement detailing the constitutional amendment creating the post of prime minister. The announcement also set out other changes necessary to go forward with a power-sharing agreement that has been stalled since September.

Saturday's unilateral step by President Robert Mugabe's government could raise political tensions in the battered southern African country.

The state-run Herald newspaper said comments by the U.S. ambassador that the U.S. had been preparing for the cholera outbreak raised suspicions that it was responsible.

The Zimbabwean government's stranglehold on most sources of news makes such rhetoric an important tool for a regime struggling to hold onto power.

After the first cholera cases, U.S. and other aid workers braced for the waterborne disease to spread quickly in an economically ravaged country where the sewage system and medical care have fallen apart. Zimbabwe also faces a hunger crisis, the world's highest inflation and shortages of both the most basic necessities and the cash to buy them.

The Herald quoted the information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, as blaming cholera on "serious biological chemical war ... a genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British."

"Cholera is a calculated racist terrorist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former colonial power which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies so that they invade the country," Ndlovu was quoted as saying.

Experts blame the epidemic on Zimbabwe's economic collapse. The World Health Organization said Friday the death toll was 792 and that the number of cholera cases that have been reported since the outbreak began in August was 16,700. The epidemic has reached a fatality rate of 4.7 percent. To be under control it would have to be less than 1 percent, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said Friday.

Aid agencies have warned that the outbreak could worsen with the onset of the rainy season and that the disease has already spread to Zimbabwe's neighbors.

Mugabe claimed Thursday that his government, with the help of international agencies, had contained the epidemic. That sparked accusations he was out of touch with his people's suffering.

Zimbabwe's decline began in 2000, when Mugabe began an often violent campaign to seize white-owned farms and give them to blacks; most of the land ended up in the hands of his cronies, and production has dropped. Hungry Zimbabweans scrounge for corn kernels spilled from trucks carrying the harvest to market in a nation that once exported food.

Zimbabwe once had among the best health care systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Now most hospitals have been forced to close as they can no longer afford drugs, equipment or wages for their staff. Officials are also unable to afford spare parts and chemicals for water systems.

Mugabe has ruled his country since its 1980 independence from Britain. He refused to leave office following disputed elections in March. U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have called recently for the 84-year-old leader to step down.

Power sharing has been agreed to as a solution to the election dispute. But a bitter disagreement over which party gets key Cabinet posts has kept the agreement from becoming reality. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is supposed to be prime minister in the unity government, with Mugabe continuing as president.

Tsvangirai's spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, said his party had not seen the constitutional announcement issued Saturday, and that there could be no power sharing without agreement on Cabinet posts. The opposition accuses Mugabe of trying to keep too many of the most powerful posts, including those overseeing the security forces.

With the so-called gazetting of the amendment, parliament, which is dominated by the opposition, would have to vote on it after 30 days.

"If these (Cabinet) issues are not resolved, we cannot guarantee the amendment will have safe passage in parliament," Chamisa said. "It is our wish to have this matter behind us. What has caused these months of suffering ... is the lack of adequate political will by ZANU-PF."

Repeated attempts to reach Mugabe's spokesman Saturday were not successful.

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Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


The Zimbabwe government ruled by President Robert Mugabe has banned the BBC from reporting from within Zimbabwe. Although some BBC correspondents and videographers manage to report from Zimbabwe, most BBC reportage is filed from neighboring South Africa.

BBC News (UK)
Friday 12 December 2008

UK caused cholera,
says Zimbabwe

The cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe which has left hundreds dead was caused by the UK, an ally of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu described the outbreak as a "genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British".

On Thursday, Mr Mugabe said the spread of cholera had been halted.

But aid workers warned that the situation was worsening and the outbreak could last for months.

In his comments to media in Harare, Mr Ndlovu likened the appearance of cholera in Zimbabwe to a "serious biological chemical weapon" used by the British.

He described it as "a calculated, racist, terrorist attack on Zimbabwe."

Mr Mugabe has already accused Western powers of plotting to use cholera as an excuse to invade and overthrow him.

Earlier on Friday a senior South African Anglican bishop said that Mr Mugabe should be seen as a "21st Century Hitler."

Bishop of Pretoria Joe Seoka called on churches to pray for his removal, the South African Press Association reports.

His comments came as the US ambassador to Zimbabwe warned that the country was turning into a "failed state".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the outbreak has not been contained and the death toll has increased to some 792 people, the Agence France Presse news agency reports.

The WHO has warned that the total number of cases could reach 60,000 unless the epidemic was stopped.

US ambassador James McGee blamed the outbreak on Zimbabwe's political crisis and the failed economic policies of its government.

He told reporters in Washington that hospitals in Harare remained closed, there was no rubbish collection and people were drinking from sewers.

President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been deadlocked in power-sharing negotiations for several months.

"The situation is truly grim. One man and his cronies - Robert Mugabe - are holding this country hostage," Mr McGee said, AP news agency reports.

Bishop Seoka said that Mr Mugabe was a "person seemingly without conscience or remorse, and a murderer."

"I believe it is now an opportune moment for all the church leaders to follow the retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, to call on God to cause the removal Mugabe from the office of the President of Zimbabwe," he said, calling for the prayers to be held next Tuesday.

"The church in South Africa has done this before with the apartheid regime and there is no doubt that God will hear our prayers even today."

Several African and Western leaders have recently said it was time for Mr Mugabe to step down.

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga said African countries should force him from power.

But the African Union has rejected such calls, saying a solution to Zimbabwe's problems must come from the power-sharing talks.

Bishop Seoka asked South Africans to show patience to Zimbabweans who have fled their homeland.

An estimated 3,000,000 Zimbabweans are living in South Africa, and thousands cross over the border illegally every day.

More recently, hundreds have sought medical treatment because Zimbabwe's health service and water supply infrastructure have virtually collapsed.

- 30 -



WHO / World Health Organization

Cholera in Zimbabwe

2 December 2008 -- As of 1 December 2008, the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe has reported a total of 11,735 cholera cases with 484 deaths since August 2008, affecting all provinces in the country.

The overall case fatality rate is 4% but has reached up to 20–30% in remote areas. Out of the total number of cases, 50% have been reported from Budiriro, a high density suburb of the capital city, Harare.

Beitbridge, a town bordering South Africa, has reported 26% of all cases. In the last two days, two additional areas have been affected: Chegutu (in Mashonaland West province) and Mvuma (in Midlands province). Reports have also been received from the Ministries of Health in neighbouring countries confirming cholera cases have occurred in Musina (South Africa), Palm Tree (Botswana) and Guro district (Mozambique).

Cholera outbreaks have become more frequent in Zimbabwe since the early 1990s. However, with the exception of the large outbreaks that occurred in 1999 and 2002, the disease has been kept under control through intensified prevention and preparedness activities.

Cholera is mainly transmitted through contaminated water and food and is closely linked to inadequate environmental management. Recent interruptions to the water supplies, together with overcrowding, are aggravating factors in this epidemic. ZINWA (Zimbabwe National Water Authority) has pledged to correct the water supply and sewage system as a matter of urgency.

The Ministry of Health and WHO, together with its health sector partners (UNICEF, IOM, OXFAM-GB, Medecins du Monde, ICRC, ACF, MSF‐Spain - Holland & Luxemburg, Plan International, GOAL, Save the Children-UK and others), have established a comprehensive and coordinated cholera response operational plan to address the needs of the population in the affected areas, emphasizing a multi-sectoral response.

WHO is procuring emergency stocks of supplies to meet identified gaps and is deploying a full outbreak investigation and response team, including epidemiologists, water and sanitation engineers and social mobilization specialists. In addition, an epidemiologist and three data managers from the WHO Inter-country Support Team in Harare are assisting the WHO Country Office in data monitoring, analysis and mapping.

Communities are being encouraged to protect themselves against cholera by adhering to proper food safety practices as well as to good personal hygiene. Early rehydration at home by using oral rehydration salts is paramount to diminishing mortality.

Mass chemoprophylaxis with antibiotics is strongly discouraged, as it has no effect on the spread of cholera, can have adverse effects by increasing antimicrobial resistance and provides a false sense of security.

Once an outbreak has started, WHO does not recommend the use of the current internationally available WHO prequalified oral cholera vaccine. This is due to its 2-dose regimen, the time required to reach protective efficacy and the high cost and heavy logistics associated with its use.

The use of the parenteral cholera vaccine has never been recommended by WHO due to its low protective efficacy and the occurrence of severe adverse events.

In controlling the spread of cholera, WHO does not recommend any special restrictions to travel or trade to or from affected areas. However, neighbouring countries are encouraged to strengthen their active surveillance and preparedness systems.

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