146 new cholera cases recorded in Zim

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by Own Correspondent

HARARE - Zimbabwe has recorded 146 new cases of cholera that have led to five deaths, according to a report by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the latest epidemiological report compiled by the ministry and the WHO, the new cases were detected in nine out of the country's more than 50 districts with report adding that there has been a decline in the number of affected areas compared to the same period last year.

"146 cumulative cholera cases and 5 deaths were reported by 13th December 2009 to the World Health Organization (WHO) through the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare's national health information unit," the report that was made available to ZimOnline at the weekend.

The crude case fatality rate since the outbreak started stands at 3.4 percent. By week 50 last year, 17 908 cumulative cases and 877 deaths had been reported, with a crude case fatality rate of 4.9 percent, the report said.

A cholera epidemic that coincided with a doctors strike killed 4 288 people out of 98 592 infections between August 2008 and July 2009.

Health experts have warned that Zimbabwe's humanitarian situation remains precarious and that the same problems that helped drive the last cholera epidemic remained unresolved, with six million people or half of the country's total population of 12 million people with little or no access to safe water and sanitation.

Aid agencies last month said that they were on standby to respond to an expected surge in cholera cases this year with the cash-strapped power-sharing government of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe seen struggling to cope in the event of a major outbreak.

The new Harare government has promised to rebuild the economy and restore basic services such as water supplies, health and education that had virtually collapsed after years of neglect and under-funding.

But the administration has found it hard to undertake any meaningful reconstruction work after failing to get financial support from rich Western nations that insist they want to see more political reforms before they can loosen the purse strings.