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We have stopped cholera, says Mugabe

Video by Gwladys SAVERY , Rachel MARUSAK

Latest update : 2008-12-13

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has announced that a deadly cholera outbreak has been contained, but the United Nations, United States and South Africa disagree. The announcement comes amid mounting pressure on Mugabe to resign.

REUTERS - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe announced on Thursday his government had stopped a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 800 people, but the United Nations said the death toll was rising.

 

The United States, which has called on Mugabe to step down, said the outbreak was worsening and South African officials declared a stretch of the border with Zimbabwe a disaster zone because of Zimbabweans fleeing in search of treatment.

 

"I am happy we are being assisted by others and we have arrested cholera," Mugabe said in a speech in which he also attacked what he described as Western plans to invade Zimbabwe and topple his government.

 

"Now that there is no cholera there is no case for war."

 

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the toll from the water-borne disease, normally easy to prevent and treat, had risen to 783 and that 16,403 were believed to be infected.

 

Asked about Mugabe's remarks, OCHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs in Geneva said: "The figures speak for themselves. We hope that the joint efforts of the United Nations and government will contribute to halting the epidemic."

 

U.S. government aid agency USAID said the outbreak had not stopped and announced it was sending $6.2 million more in aid.

 

"This is a cholera outbreak that is ongoing and urgent. This is clearly a humanitarian crisis," USAID administrator Henrietta Fore told a news conference in Washington.

 

The collapse of Zimbabwe's economy and health care system has left victims to fend for themselves and driven hundreds to try to escape to South Africa to seek treatment there.

 

 

 

DISASTER AREA

 

"The whole of the Vhembe district has been declared a disaster," said Mogale Nchabeleng, a spokesman for South Africa's Limpopo provincial government. The government took the decision after an emergency meeting earlier this week.

 

The outbreak, coupled with an economic meltdown, has prompted calls for international humanitarian assistance as well as calls for Mugabe's resignation from Western leaders and some within Africa.

 

Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai reached a power-sharing deal brokered by regional mediator Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's former president, in September. But they are deadlocked over how to implement it.

 

The MDC said on Thursday that the cholera outbreak showed Mugabe's government could no longer rule the country and accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of orchestrating a campaign of abductions of MDC leaders and activists.

 

"We remain on the side of the people while ZANU-PF remains on the side of terror. We remain on the side of the downtrodden while ZANU-PF is firmly etched in the dark corner of an avaricious, parasitic elite," the MDC said in a statement.

 

The French foreign ministry said Zimbabwe had denied visas to a French team of specialists standing by to help stem the cholera outbreak.

 

"Contrary to what Mr Mugabe says, the cholera epidemic is not under control... France strongly regrets this decision and calls on Zimbabwe's authorities to allow aid to reach the population," ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux said.

 

The United Nations has warned that cholera could infect 60,000 if not treated properly.


   
 

Date created : 2008-12-12

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