SOUTH Africa yesterday declared a cholera disaster on its border with Zimbabwe, as a spillover from a deadly epidemic strains health resources, a government official has said.
â€œThe provincial government took a decision that the whole of the Vhembe district should be declared a disaster area,â€ South Africaâ€™s northern Limpopo provincial government spokesperson Mogale Nchabeleng said.
The Vhembe district includes Musina, a bustling town at the 24-hour border crossing between South Africa and the cholera-hit town of Beitbridge.
The disaster status would free up funding and focus relief efforts, Nchabeleng said.
â€œIt helps to cut on government bureaucracy and speed up the pace of the response.
â€œWe are likely to experience problems,â€ he said, adding â€œthe sooner you come in, the better. Itâ€™s under control but we would not want to leave [anything] to chance.â€
Health Minister Barbara Hogan visited the affected region on Wednesday to assess the situation.
Musina is also the entry point for thousands of illegal immigrants fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, where the latest United Nations cholera death toll has risen to 775 lives.
â€œThese people come in infected and have to be treated. That has been a strain on the capacity of our health infrastructure to respond,â€ said Nchabeleng.
Eight people have died of cholera in Limpopo, two of them South African, while 664 cases have been treated, local health officials said.
Aid agencies have warned of Zimbabweâ€™s cholera crisis spreading to neighbouring countries, and the regionâ€™s shared waterway, the Limpopo River, has tested positive for cholera.
The cholera epidemic is the latest turmoil to hit Zimbabwe where a power-sharing deal signed about three months ago has floundered over the distribution of key ministries between President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The United Nations said that more than 16 000 cholera cases have been reported in Zimbabwe. â€”AFP