Source: IRIN

SOUTH AFRICA-ZIMBABWE: The politics of cholera

No defence against cholera spread

JOHANNESBURG, 21 November 2008 (IRIN) - The number of people being
treated for cholera in the northern town of Musina, near South
Africa's border with Zimbabwe, is falling, but the situation remains

"It's difficult to say the situation is under control, as it is
difficult to trace the patients once they are released; we don't know
where they go, we don't know whether they take risks," John Shiburi, a
South African Red Cross Society official in Musina, told IRIN.

According to health workers, nine people are still in hospital in
Musina, being treated for cholera-like symptoms. Earlier this week the
figure was 14, with the patients apparently all from Zimbabwe, where
an epidemic is raging.

The South African government announced on 20 November that it was
ready to help Zimbabwe "address the cholera outbreak", and that
discussions were underway with the UN World Health Organisation and
the regional Southern African Development Community.

The collapse of water and sewerage services in Zimbabwe, worsened by
uncollected refuse and the start of the rainy season, have helped the
spread of the waterborne disease. Humanitarian officials reported a
total of 2,893 people were infected with cholera between the beginning
of August and mid-November, with at least 115 deaths.

A hard-hitting South Africa cabinet statement linked Zimbabwe's
cholera crisis to the stalled formation of a government of national
unity between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, saying the deadlock was exacerbating the country's
humanitarian and economic crisis.

"The reported outbreak of cholera in parts of that country is a clear
indication that ordinary Zimbabweans are the true victims of their
leaders' lack of political will and failure to demonstrate seriousness
to resolve the political impasse," the statement noted.

Shiburi said that until the emergency in Zimbabwe was resolved, where
people were suffering an inflation rate of 231 million percent and
shortages of almost every basic item, the flow of Zimbabwean migrants
into South Africa would not halt.

An estimated three million Zimbabweans, in a population of less than
12 million, have left the country, many crossing the border into South
Africa, the regional economic powerhouse.

"We've got two challenges: the outbreak of cholera, and the issue of
immigration. That in itself [migration] is a challenge, but the
cholera outbreak has worsened the problem. We have [migrants here] who
don't have shelter, who don't have accommodation," Shiburi noted.

He added that some Zimbabweans arriving without documentation were
avoiding Musina and the authorities and "going straight to Jo'burg",
South Africa's economic hub, to look for work.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Economy, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN)
Health & Nutrition, (IRIN) Water & Sanitation

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