Deaths as a result of the devastating cholera epidemic have soared in South Africa and Zambia, as the flood of desperately ill Zimbabweans seeking treatment continues to pour into Zimbabwe’s neighbouring countries.
Health officials in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province this week made a shock announcement that 19 people in the province had died as a result of the disease in the past two weeks, bringing the total number of reported deaths in the country to 32. Three deaths have been reported in the central Gauteng province, out the 185 suspected cases there, while more cases have been reported in at least two other provinces, with one death confirmed in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Limpopo health department meanwhile is still fighting to stop the ongoing spread of cholera through the province, where nine people are confirmed to have died, and officials there have said the number of cases has risen to 2439, with 91 new cases reported in the past few days.
National health ministry officials have recently insisted the cholera spread in South Africa is unrelated to the crisis in Zimbabwe, but in all reported cholera cases across the country, a Zimbabwe link has been found. The situation is much the same in Zambia, where the death toll has also soared to 28. Health officials in the country have said the traffic of Zimbabweans crossing the border into Zambia for treatment has ‘contributed’ to the spread of the disease, and medical teams are said to be battling to contain the estimated 2000 cases reported there.
Meanwhile the disease has continued its spread in Zimbabwe and officially more than 2200 people have died and there are almost 44 000 reported cases since August. The onset of the rainy season recently prompted fears the disease would spread further out of control, and medical experts on the ground have predicted the worst is yet to come.
At the same time, as the country sinks deeper into the rubble of its collapse, there are fears of a serious cholera outbreak in Bulawayo, where residents have not had running water for more than a week. No explanation has been given by the city council, whose workers have been on strike since Wednesday last week, citing the council’s unwillingness to review their January salaries in foreign currency.