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Cholera outbreak reaches Zimbabwe capital

Cholera outbreak reaches Zimbabwe capital

A cholera outbreak has claimed its first victim in Zimbabwe's capital after causing death and illness elsewhere in a country too poor to provide clean water or clear garbage from the streets.
Health authorities reported the death in Harare Thursday and said 20 other people had been hospitalized.
Across the country in recent weeks, at least 27 people have died from cholera, mostly in impoverished districts, and hundreds have been treated for the highly infectious intestinal disease spread by contaminated food and water.
Doctors have reported at least 120 preventable deaths from the disease during the year as sewer and drainage service collapse. Infrastructure has been left to crumble for months with politicians deadlocked first over disputed elections and now over forming a power sharing government.
Aleck Kandenga, an unemployed construction worker, said his eastern Harare neighborhood has been without piped water for nearly a year. Garbage collection has collapsed and the odor of rotting waste and fires set to burn garbage have caused illness in his street, he said.
Kandenga said a group of neighbors dug a 10-meter (30 foot) well to draw water.
"When the rains come all the filth will flow into our well," he said.
An independent doctors group said Sunday that the coming seasonal rains could bring a cholera epidemic.
The Health Ministry advised Zimbabweans Thursday to boil water and "maintain the highest standards of hygiene" by washing fruit, vegetables and other foods.
Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told state radio Thursday the main government hospitals faced severe shortages of medicines and supplies and spare parts for equipment used for routine examination and treatment. But the minister denied Parirenyatwa hospital, named after his father, in central Harare had closed.
Witnesses there said Thursday that some wards were closed and in recent days staff turned patients away because they were unable to treat them.
Zimbabwe is suffering daily power and water outages; chronic shortages of food, gasoline and other basic goods; and the world's highest official inflation, of 231 million percent.
Public utilities and education services are paralyzed. The U.N. predicts at least 5 million people, half of the population, will need food aid by January.
Leaders of several of Zimbabwe's neighbors gathered in Harare Monday but failed to break a deadlock over the allocation of ministries under a power sharing agreement signed Sept. 15 by President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara. Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, of trying to hold on to too many of the most powerful posts.
A full regional summit on Zimbabwe is planned, but no date or venue has been set.
Amnesty International said in a statement Wednesday the deadlock would worsen an impending humanitarian crisis.
With "every day that passes without a solution, the living conditions for ordinary Zimbabweans become more and more desperate," said Simon Mawanza, the human rights body's Zimbabwe spokesman. "This is about people _ not just politics. They need a breakthrough and assistance now," Mawanza said.
The U.S. State Department called on African leaders and the United Nations "to address the urgent needs of the Zimbabwean people."
"We condemn the Mugabe regime's refusal to implement a genuine and equitable power sharing agreement," said spokesman Sean McCormick.