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International News

First AIDS, Now Cholera: Zimbabwe's Newest Orphans

December 10, 2008

A cholera outbreak affecting nine of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces is threatening a population already devastated by HIV/AIDS and hunger. Of Zimbabwe's adults, 16 percent are HIV-infected, and 1 million children in the country have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS or poverty-related disease.

Children are especially vulnerable to cholera, an illness caused by bacteria that is spread through contaminated water or food. And over half of Zimbabwe's 12 million people need food assistance, making them vulnerable to the disease.

In Chitungwiza, a sprawling township about 18 miles southwest of Harare, women and girls routinely line up with cans to fetch water. Though a common enough sight in rural regions of southern Africa, it used to be rare in urban areas. But taps in Zimbabwe have been running dry for months, forcing people to collect water at sources unprotected from sewage and garbage. About 600 people in Chitungwiza have died from cholera since August.

In Budiriro, about 18 miles west of Chitungwiza, nine-year-old Bongani and his six-year-old brother Sibanengi recently lost parents to cholera and AIDS. Their father died of AIDS last year, and the boys' mother died of cholera just days ago.

Last week, Zimbabwe's government asked for international assistance in ending the outbreak, but much more needs to be done to save thousands of people from dying of cholera, experts say. "For example, the supply of safe drinking water and proper disposal of garbage and sewage has to improve quickly," said Dr. Marcus Bachmann of Doctors Without Borders.

Back to other news for December 2008

Adapted from:
Deutsche Presse-Agentur
12.09.2008; Columbus Mavhunga

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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