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Spread of Cholera Cases Puts Southern Africa on Alert

FILE - Patients are treated at a clinic dealing with cholera outbreak in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 19, 2018.

HARARE — At least 17 people have died in a cholera outbreak in the Hammanskraal township outside South Africa's capital, Pretoria, authorities said Wednesday, as cases recorded in Zimbabwe and at least 12 other African nations have officials on alert.

Authorities said there were another 29 laboratory-confirmed cholera cases, while 67 people were admitted to a hospital and clinics for gastrointestinal infections.

Health authorities are yet to confirm the exact source of the cholera outbreak, but poor waste water management and local government instability in South Africa's capital city have been blamed for the situation.

The southern African nation is the latest to experience an outbreak of cholera following deaths in neighboring Zimbabwe and in Malawi this year.

The World Health Organization says 28 million people suffer from cholera in east and southern Africa and is calling for $171 million dollars to help contain its spread.

Zimbabwean authorities say the first case in the country was recorded on April 24, and to date 358 cases which include 48 new ones were recorded on Tuesday.

Wisdom Mumera, editor of Open Council, an online publication that covering Zimbabwe's local areas, including Harare, told VOA cholera remains a major perennial issue largely due to failure of basic services in communities.

"Residents have no dependable access to water, the infrastructure is old, garbage is not regularly collected and sewer systems constantly break down," Mumera said.

Harare City Council members say they are working hard to find solutions and are eager to see the end of this outbreak. Harare mayor Jacob Mafume said the city was increasing the amount of tankers to get residents portable water.

Mafume said Harare officials would ensure aqua tablets, used to purify contaminated water, would be made available for free, and the council plans to launch an awareness campaign on the water-borne disease.

But the City Council is in a dilemma: they struggle to meet their mandate to provide residents with clean water and garbage collection services.

Zimbabwe as a country has a long history of deadly cholera outbreaks, a cholera epidemic from 2008-2009 resulted in over 98,000 reported cases and 4,287 reported deaths.

More recently, Cyclones Idai and Freddy caused deadly outbreaks in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Malawi reported earlier this year that more than 1,000 people had died in a widespread outbreak that started in March 2022, the outbreak is Malawi's worst in 20 years, the WHO said, with more than 36,000 cases.

The United Nations warned Friday a billion people in 43 countries are at risk of cholera, and though the outbreaks could be stopped, the U.N. said resources were desperately lacking.

Some information in this report came from the Associated Press.