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Zimbabwe Declares Emergency as Cholera Spreads in Capital

Category: Africa,World

A cholera outbreak in the capital of Zimbabwe has killed at least 20 people and sickened 2,000 others in the past week, the country’s new health minister said on Tuesday, declaring a state of emergency.

“The city of Harare, they’re the big problem,” the health minister, Obadiah Moyo, told reporters. “This whole problem is a result of blocked sewers. And these were reported and were never repaired for at least two months.”

“As we speak,” he added, “I’m told by the mayor that they are busy repairing the blocked sewers.”

Mr. Moyo did not say whether Zimbabwe had requested help from international organizations. His announcement came just a day after he was sworn in, along with other members of a new cabinet President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed.

Cholera is a bacterial disease spread by fecal matter coming into contact with drinking water or food; in places with inadequate sewer systems, the bacteria can easily spread to water wells.

Zimbabwe had a serious cholera outbreak in 2008 and 2009 that the World Health Organization says sickened more than 98,000 people and killed more than 4,200. International aid groups said the country’s years of economic suffering had created conditions for the disease to spread: Large numbers of people moved to the cities to look for work and lived in ramshackle housing without running water, while sewer and water systems were overburdened and fell into disrepair.

Mr. Mnangagwa took office in November after leading the ouster of Zimbabwe’s longtime leader, Robert Mugabe, and he was elected in July. Zimbabwe was largely cut off economically under Mr. Mugabe, whose government became increasingly autocratic and corrupt, and the country’s new leaders hope to attract outside investment.

Since his appointment was announced last week, Mr. Moyo has been dogged by accusations that he falsified his credentials and abused his authority when he managed a hospital.

Follow Richard Pérez-Peña on Twitter: @perezpena.

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