3 January 2001

South Africa calls on WHO to help fight cholera

South Africa has asked the World Health Organisation (WHO) for international aid to contain the cholera epidemic which has gripped rural parts of northern and southern KwaZulu-Natal since August. In what has developed into the most serious cholera epidemic yet experienced in South Africa the water-borne disease has claimed 53 lives and infected 12 715 people already.

The cholera outbreak responsible for 52 deaths in KwaZulu-Natal in only four months is expected to worsen as the government waits for a R500-m European Union grant to kick in in April. This has raised fears that as many as 400 000 people could be infected by the epidemic over the next three months before a permanent solution, such as connecting rural communities to clean water, can be implemented.

More than R500m was allocated to KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Northern Province by the EU last year with the aim of connecting the province’s rural communities to clean running water and proper sanitation, said Water Affairs spokesman Thamsanqa Mchunu. The provinces are said to have a huge backlog in terms of providing clean water.

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