/ 22 January 2009

Zim cholera death toll soars past 2 700

The cholera death toll in Zimbabwe has soared to 2 755, according to latest World Health Organisation statistics published on Thursday.

The cholera death toll in Zimbabwe has soared to 2 755, with 48 623 people suspected to be infected, according to latest World Health Organisation statistics published on Thursday.

The numbers show a sharp rise in fatalities and new infections from statistics published earlier.

The new toll is 260 more than the 2 495 reported by the WHO earlier on Thursday, while the number of people affected soared 1 124 from 47 499.

The United Nations’s humanitarian coordination office said last week in Geneva that preventions measures were not working and that a growing number of deaths were occurring beyond the reach of health workers in rural areas.

Human Rights Watch on Thursday called on African leaders to intervene in Zimbabwe’s political deadlock, saying Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe’s government was responsible for the country’s humanitarian crisis.

The international rights body wants the African Union, which meets in Ethiopia next week, to step into regional mediation efforts that it says have failed to solve the political stand-off or act against rights abuses.

”Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have shown scant regard for the welfare of Zimbabweans,” said Georgette Gagnon, the body’s Africa director in a statement marking the release of a new 33-page report on the Zimbabwe crisis.

”It is way past time for the African Union to act to help end their massive suffering,” she added.

The next summit of AU heads of state and government will take place in Addis Ababa from February 1 to 3, and will follow an emergency summit of Southern African leaders in South Africa on Monday.

”The urgent humanitarian needs of Zimbabweans are a direct consequence of Zanu-PF’s abusive rule,” said Gagnon.

”The AU can only restore the security and well-being of people in the region by openly acknowledging the scale of the crisis, putting human rights at the top of the agenda, and holding abusers to account.”

Lost all legitimacy
Meanwhile, Southern African leaders have failed miserably in saving Zimbabweans from a government that has lost all legitimacy, Elders member Graça Machel said on Wednesday.

”We trusted too long, it’s time we tell our leaders we lay the lives of all those who passed on … in the hands of the SADC [Southern African Development Community] leaders because they took the responsibility to stop that mess there,” Machel said in Johannesburg.

”Politicians have very huge egos to protect. They don’t care if another thousand, another thousand and another thousand die, as long as they protect their egos.”

The former Mozambican first lady was speaking at the launch of the ”Save Zimbabwe Now” campaign by church leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who will participate in a period of fasting to raise awareness of the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Machel said Mugabe’s government had lost all legitimacy and warned other liberation movements in Southern Africa against following the same route.

In the past, leaders in the region, including Zimbabwe, stood together to fight against oppressive white rule, said Machel.

”What has happened in the meantime in Zimbabwe? Those colleagues of mine from yesterday now brutalise their own people simply because the people consciously voted them out.

”It is a question which haunts me again and again,” said Machel. — AFP, Sapa