New Zealand Red Cross helps 1200 cholera sufferers in Zimbabwe

New Zealand Red Cross is delivering practical assistance to the Zimbabwe Red Cross as they tackle the cholera outbreak that has affected the country for the past four months.

This week New Zealand Red Cross will fund the purchase of a cholera kit, capable of treating 1200 people. The kits contain basic nursing care equipment, medicines, water purification equipment and oral and intravenous rehydration solutions. The kit will cost $30,000.

Over 1120 people have died from the preventable disease, and over 20,000 people are reported as suffering from its affects. The World Health Organisation estimates that 60,000 people could finally be affected.

Zimbabwe Red Cross' staff and volunteers, with assistance from the International Red Cross Movement, are working hard across the country in Cholera Treatment Centres where the kits are being used. In addition, they are implementing programmes to improve the water supply and educate about hygiene and health.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the Federation) have significantly scaled up their response in the country to address the critical cholera situation with the first of seven planned Red Cross emergency response units (ERUs) arriving in Zimbabwe late last week.

An ERU is a specialised team that is trained and equipped for emergency humanitarian scenarios. It can be mobilised and dispatched with optimum speed and is fully self-sufficient.

Typically, ERUs are only deployed in the most critical humanitarian situations such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and Pakistan earthquake in October 2005. The most recent deployment resulted from the destruction caused when successive hurricanes battered Haiti and the Caribbean.

"We are confident that with these resources in place we can play an important role in preventing an escalation of the situation and more loss of life," say New Zealander John Fleming, the Federation's Southern Africa Zone Health and Care Coordinator.

The seven planned Red Cross ERUs are likely to include three basic health care ERUs, two mass sanitation ERUs and two water and sanitation ERUs.

The Federation has already released over $630,000 to fund their initial emergency response for Zimbabwe. New Zealanders wishing to donate to assist with the Red Cross' emergency response can go online to http://www.redcross.org.nz. As with all of New Zealand Red Cross' special appeals, all donations will go directly to where they are intended.