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Fighting Cholera In Zimbabwe

The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, is providing $6.8 million in assistance to Zimbabwe, where cholera has taken more than 1,100 lives as of December 18th and infected nearly 21,000 people since August.

USAID also sent a team of experts to Zimbabwe to help with water, sanitation and hygiene and public health interventions. The team, including an expert from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is offering technical help and recommendations for further U.S. assistance.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, all 10 of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces have reported cases of cholera, a disease transmitted to humans by water contaminated with cholera bacterium. U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee says the epidemic is "totally out of control." The health crisis, he noted, is a reflection of the inability and unwillingness of the Robert Mugabe government to take care of its people.

"This is a situation that did not need to happen, but the government is unwilling to put the money into taking care of its own people," he said. According to the United Nations, the crisis has worsened with the collapse of basic services. Schools and hospitals have closed, patients have no access to health care, and teachers, nurses and doctors have been unable to go to work.

The United States joins several countries and organizations, including the World Health Organization, or WHO, in sending help to Zimbabwe. "A high-level WHO team is in Harare to support our country operations," said WHO spokesman Gregory Harti. "Dr. Eric Larouche, assistant director-general for health action in crises, met December 8 with Zimbabwe's minister of health and offered WHO support," he said.

For USAID, the contribution is in addition to a $4 million water, sanitation and hygiene emergency program already being implemented in Zimbabwe, bringing total U.S. humanitarian assistance for Zimbabwe's food and health crisis to more than $226 million since October 2007. Responsibility for the crisis rests entirely with Zimbabwe's corrupt and incompetent government. But Zimbabwe's people are paying the price. The U.S. remains committed to helping meet the humanitarian needs of Zimbabwe's unfortunate people.