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A child sits and waits for clean water in Zimbabwe
A lack of clean water has contributed to the spread of choleraImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Health Crisis

DW staff (kjb)
December 9, 2008

As a cholera epidemic continues to spread through Zimbabwe, leaving orphans in its wake, Germany has pledged an additional 1 million euros in aid as many in Europe continues to call for President Mugabe to step down.


In response to the humanitarian crisis, which brought unprecedented calls for international assistance last week from the Zimbabwean government, Germany contributed 1 million euros ($1.3 million) to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Monday, Dec. 8.

Nearly 600 people have died of the disease since the outbreak began in August and another 300,000 people are particularly susceptible to infection due to lack of food. The United Nations has estimated that nearly 14,000 people have already been infected with the illness.

Because those figures do not include people who died at home, the real toll is thought to be much higher.

The additional grant raises Germany's total aid to Zimbabwe this year to nearly 6 million euros.

Poverty goes hand-in-hand with disease

A young girl scavenges for food in a rubbish dump in Zimbabwe
Those weakened by a lack of food are more susceptible to choleraImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The funds are to be spent on rehydration fluids, infusion packs, antibiotics and protective clothing for staff treating cholera patients. The Red Cross is also to repair hand-powered water pumps to give more people access to clean drinking water.

The country's water supply network has failed and widespread water contamination has allowed the disease to spread rapidly. In addition, over half of the population of 12 million is in need of food aid, which makes them more vulnerable to the illness.

Though children are most susceptible, the cholera outbreak has left many orphans. Zimbabwe already has the highest rate of orphaned children in the world. It is estimated that over one million children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS, poverty-related diseases, or -- more recently -- cholera.

More international pressure on Mugabe

Also on Monday, European leaders including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, called for Zimbabwe's long-time leader Robert Mugabe to step down.

"The time has come to put all the pressure on Mugabe to step down and give the opportunity once again to the people of Zimbabwe to put their lives together," Solana told reporters Monday.

Robert Mugabe
Mugabe has held power in for 21 yearsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Mugabe's government has accused Western governments of using the epidemic as a reason for intervention by the UN Security Council in Zimbabwe.

"They are dead set on ensuring that there is an invasion of Zimbabwe," said George Charamba, Mugabe's chief spokesman.

The epidemic has been caused by the collapse of water and sanitation services in urban areas, as evidenced by the raw effluent flowing out of people's drains, and piles of uncollected garbage.

Mugabe, who has been in a political deadlock with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai over a power-sharing agreement, has been blamed for current crisis. Meanwhile, the country's once strong economy continues to plummet, with basic food supplies running out and prices doubling every 24 hours.

Mugabe, however, has accused the West of taking advantage of his country's crisis to have him ousted.

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