A cholera epidemic has compounded the daily misery faced by ordinary Zimbabweans, who struggle to survive with the world’s highest inflation, last official estimate at 231 million percent. Half the population needs emergency food aid.
The disease has already spread to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, as desperate people carrying their relatives in wheelbarrows and in their arms, dehydrated, exhausted and starving hope for medical treatment and food. Zimbabwe’s hospitals lacking in drugs, equipment and staff have closed. Some of the staff working in a few remaining clinics have not received a salary for weeks, and they cannot keep working if we do not get them food. Travellers to South Africa fear for their lives too after recent xenophobic mass killings. It’s an incredibly dangerous gamble but these people are out of safe options. Cholera is treatable but a highly contagious illness that causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting that can eventually kill. Foreigners with contagious disease may not be all that welcome.
To make matters worse there has been a complete shutdown of water services in Harare after they ran out of water treatment chemicals, sending people into the streets carrying containers to search for water from wells or cisterns. People are digging holes in their yards looking for water, and other holes to replace their defunct toilets, causing cross contamination. Now that the rainy season has begun and will continue till February, it is expected to spread the disease further. Sewage already flows openly in the streets while water is left untreated.
The Zimbabwean health minister is urging the public to stop shaking hands in an attempt to prevent the disease from spreading. Shaking hands is an important part of greeting in Zimbabwe, and the gesture can last for several minutes when close acquaintances meet. Now they are losing a wonderful part of their culture too out of fear because they cannot even wash their hands anymore.
On top of all of this, livestock which have been weakened by lack of food have succumbed to anthrax. A anthrax outbreak has killed three people and threatens to wipe out the 60,000 weakened livestock in Zimbabwe. Devastating food shortages and desperate hunger are leading families to eat meat even from animals they know have died of anthrax. It is harrowingly and understandably common.
This may sound like the stuff of nightmares but its real and these people are living it every day. These are our brothers and sisters, our children, our elders, going through unbearable suffering. Please do what you can to spread the word about Zimbabwe, under Mugabe’s cruel regime, so that more and more people start to care enough to talk about Zimbabwe every day, to urge our leaders into action.
Please donate whatever you can. The 25th of December isn’t even going to be a day of significance for Zimbabweans. With no-where to turn and nothing to eat or drink I would be surprised if they notice it went by at all.
Your donations can be made directly to
• the Zimbabwean Red Cross
• Doctors Without Borders
I’m sure its even lower for infants and children.
Life expectancy prior to Mugabe was 60+ years. Today it’s 37 for men and 34 for women. Hard to believe that’s possible.