Cholera spreads in Zimbabwe22nd December 2008
Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic continues to spread, with 1,111 deaths reported among 20,581 cases.
The latest figures come from the UN and include a new outbreak in Chegutu.
The capital Harare, near Chengutu, has been worst hit by the disease since the outbreak began in August.
Authorities in Zimbabwe have now declared the outbreak a national emergency, according to reports in state media.
Hospitals are now in urgent need of medicine, food and equipment and were trying to operate under critical staff shortages, according to Health Minister David Parirenyatwa.
Zimbabwe is now appealing for international help to tackle the outbreak, which the government had said previously was under control.
Meanwhile, aid agency Oxfam has launched a US$6 million appeal to limit the spread of disease and curb diminishing food supplies.
The updated toll shows an increase of several hundred deaths and more than a thousand new cases in just a few days.
Harare remains badly hit with almost 75% of all cases occurring there.
Cholera is normally an easy disease to prevent, but it has spread in Zimbabwe in the wake of public healthcare collapse and because of poorly maintained water facilities.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the total number of cases could reach 60,000.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said that the outbreak had been stopped. He said that overseas powers were seeking to use news of an epidemic as an excuse to invade the country.
Jon Slater, a spokesman for Oxfam, said food shortages were likely to worsen as a result of the epidemic.
He said that starvation puts people in increased risk of cholera because people who are hungry are more likely to get it.
This is because the bodies of starved people are weaker, and they are forced to scavenge for food in unsanitary places.
Mugabe's party will meet following the loss of its parliamentary majority this year, the first ever.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso said that the various views of people involved in the ruling party would be expressed.
Following disputed presidential elections in March and June, the ruling party and the opposition have been negotiating a unity government.
Sikhanyiso said that a power sharing agreement with the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was imminent.
Sikhanyiso also denied that a political deadlock exists in Zimbabwe.
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