HARARE, March 11 — Zimbabwe is at high risk of cholera because of poor infrastructure and sanitation, says Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa.

Zimbabwe was hit by a deadly cholera outbreak in 2008 and 2009 which claimed more than 4,000 lives with at least 99,000 cases reported in 55 districts.

Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and even death when not treated.

He told a media conference here Monday that six cases of cholera were recently reported in Mudzi, another six in Beitbridge, two in Chiredzi and one in Chipinge.

Parirenyatwa said all the cases were treated and discharged while three suspected cases were being monitored at Birchnough Bridge. He said no death had so far been recorded.

The Minister said Zimbabwe had joined the Africhol Consortium within the continent that helps countries to monitor cholera and the initiative had revealed that the outbreak had hit Mozambique and Malawi.

Zimbabwe shares a long boarder with Mozambique in the eastern part of the country which has recorded 31 deaths and a total of 2,903 cases of cholera.

Parirenyatwa said good hygiene, safe water supply and good sanitation were required to contain the outbreak but sanitation in Zimbabwe was poor because of the poor infrastructure.

He said the country would face such problems each rainy season as long as issues of water and sanitation issues were not addressed. “In some parts of the country we have found out that the sanitation coverage especially in Chiredzi is as low as eight percent, it means that out of 100 households only eight have got toilets and that is what is happening in Chiredzi now,” he added.

“As long as we have poor sanitation, poor water reticulation system and people cannot get water, the danger of cholera in this country is very high. “So we need to be able to say to ourselves; yes, we will not get water tomorrow but we should work towards that as a country and no matter what happens the Ministry of Health will be at the receiving end but clearly this comes from the infrastructure that is not up to scratch in terms of fighting diseases like cholera and typhoid,” he said.

Parirenyatwa, however, said the government was on high alert to contain the outbreak before it spread and appropriate quantities of antibiotics were already stocked. “What we have done already is to initiate our emergency fund which is always there for emergency cases, and we have already applied for the funds so that we are able to mobilize our people and also mobilize the partners, but we hope that it will not spread.

He said he would next week meet with the Mozambican Health Minister at the common border at Tete to map the way forward. A national task force would also be set up in all the cities and provinces as measures to contain the outbreak, he said.