The cholera epidemic sweeping Zimbabwe has claimed hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives. Officially, nearly 600 people have died, with more than 12,000 ill. But there are claims that President Mugabe’s government is playing down much higher numbers of dead or dying. Many people have fled to South Africa, seeking treatment at temporary medical centres set up along the border. There is no chance of help at home. “People are basically coming here because there is no service on that side of the border,” said Dr Mulimisi Ramavhuya. “That is why they are coming to this side. If they were having help on that side, they would not have to walk such long distances, being dehydrated at the same time, coming here for treatment.”
The tragedy is that cholera is easily treatable – a course of pills and it is gone. But clean water is vital, and Zimbabwe is on the verge of collapse, and clean water is almost impossible to find. Rampant inflation means many towns and cities cannot afford to keep clean water flowing, and even the capital Harare has seen its taps run dry.