UN announces $8 million aid for Cholera-hit Zimbabwe | world | Hindustan Times
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UN announces $8 million aid for Cholera-hit Zimbabwe

world Updated: Jan 31, 2009 14:24 IST

The United Nations has announced release of $8 million from its emergency fund (CERF) to help contain deadly Cholera in Zimbabwe which has so far claimed over 3,100 lives in the African nation.

More than 60,000 people are still infected with the deadly disease, which has been raging out of control despite aid agencies efforts to contain it.

The emergency funding is expected to help Zimbabwean authorities and UN agencies to implement a number of urgent life-saving programmes against the disease which has surpassed World Health Organisation (WHO) worst case scenario.

"This CERF allocation will enable agencies to buy some of the most essential drugs and materials required," John Holmes, under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said.

Holmes also urged the donors to step up donations to help fund the USD 567 million appeal UN agencies and their humanitarian partners have launched to support those in need in Zimbabwe for 2009.

Only 12 per cent of funds sought have been pledged so far.

The WHO, which is working in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and the UN World Food Programme, will use $2 million of the CERF allocation to deploy 12 more staff to each of Zimbabwe's provinces and to bolster disease monitoring.

"Unless drastic action is taken by all players in this crisis, more Zimbabweans will succumb to the outbreak, and other countries in the southern African region will face the continued threat of spill over epidemics," Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO's Health Action in Crises Cluster, said.

Laroche said that political differences and economic barriers need to be dismantled "to save many more people from dying due to a disease that can be readily prevented and treated."

Efforts to counter the epidemic, which has spread to all 10 of Zimbabwe's provinces, have been undermined by a shortage of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, the collapsing health care infrastructure, and the high drop out rate of underpaid health workers.

The cholera epidemic is ravaging Zimbabwe at the country's peak hunger period (January to March) with almost seven million people, more than half the country's population, relying on food aid.

There is also mounting concern that with heavy rainfall fore casted for the coming weeks, floods could derail efforts to control the disease as more water sources could become contaminated.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement reached between the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, and President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF to form a government of national unity in Zimbabwe.

Ban called on the new Government to "take all necessary measures to address the humanitarian and economic crises in the country and respect democratic freedoms."

The cholera epidemic is just the latest crisis to strike Zimbabwe, which has faced years of failed harvests, bad governance, hyperinflation and a failing banking system, as well as months of political tensions after disputed presidential elections in March.