International Rescue Committee responds to health crisis in Zimbabwe
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is launching aid efforts in Zimbabwe to help stem a major cholera epidemic and prevent the spread of other diseases which are ravaging communities across the country.
“The health crisis in Zimbabwe is steadily worsening as fewer and fewer people have access to safe water, food and the most basic sanitation and medical services,” says Gillian Dunn, who heads the IRC’s emergency response programs.
So far, there have been some 21,000 suspected cases of cholera and over 1,000 deaths reported. Millions of people are malnourished and weak, making them more vulnerable to infectious diseases.
An IRC physician arrived in Harare this week and is set to begin training health teams on how to respond to outbreaks of cholera and other health emergencies.
The IRC is also starting a project to contain and prevent disease outbreaks in Mutare District, where sub-standard sanitary conditions pose significant health risks.
The IRC will be supporting the renovation of six dilapidated and inundated sanitation facilities that are each being used by about 40 families when they were built to serve eight households. The project will involve building new toilets, replacing broken water pipes, repairing blocked sewers and training community members to maintain the facilities.
The IRC aims to expand health assistance to disease and poverty-stricken communities in Zimbabwe in the coming months and deploy an emergency team to South Africa, where hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have sought refuge from ongoing turmoil.
Update, 03 Feb 09: The epidemic continues to spread. The World Health Organization reports that there are now nearly 70,000 suspected cases of cholera in Zimbabwe.
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Melissa Winkler, email@example.com, +1 212 551 0972 or +1 646 734 0305