Red Cross short of funds in Zimbabwe

As the death toll from cholera in Zimbabwe appears certain to hit 4,000, the Red Cross has received less than half the funding it needs to continue its work there, forcing the organisation to prepare to scale back its response.

So far, almost 90,000 people have contracted the disease - far beyond the UN's initial worst-case scenario prediction of 60,000 - but despite the desperate situation, the Red Cross appeal remains critically under-funded.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is now urgently appealing for money to help save lives.

Urgent appeal

"What is happening in Zimbabwe is an absolute tragedy and this grim milestone is just one more reminder of that," said the Federation's Matthew Cochrane.

"The British public, as always, have shown themselves to be extremely generous but more is needed - overall the Red Cross has received less than half of the funding necessary to continue its work.

"We're now forced to prepare to scale back our operation when we should be increasing what we are doing. If that happens, many more people will die who could have been saved.

"Most deaths are occurring in communities where people simply cannot get to help before it is too late - it is exactly these vulnerable people the Red Cross is working to reach out to."

Red Cross support

The magnitude of the cholera outbreak has prompted an unprecedented mass deployment of international Red Cross resources, including a British Red Cross team of water and sanitation experts, as well as teams from Japan, Norway, Austria, Germany, France and Finland.

The Federation launched an appeal for £6.2 million in December last year, but remains more than £3 million short of that target.

"We have been able to send an emergency response team into Zimbabwe, thanks to money from the public and a significant donation from GlaxoSmithKline to the British Red Cross appeal," said Pete Garrett, relief operations manager, British Red Cross.

"But it is not just big donations that matter; when you consider that it costs just £1 a day - less than a cup of coffee - to protect a family of five from cholera, it shows that any donation, large or small, can make a huge difference."