28 January 2009The death toll from Zimbabwe’s worst ever cholera epidemic has climbed to over 3,000, with more than 57,000 infected by the water-borne disease, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. The death toll from Zimbabwe’s worst ever cholera epidemic has climbed to over 3,000, with more than 57,000 infected by the water-borne disease, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.Some 3,028 people have now died from cholera since the outbreak first hit the besieged southern African country about six months ago, with 57 deaths yesterday alone and 102 the day before. WHO also recorded 1,579 new cases of the disease yesterday, brining the total number of people infected in Zimbabwe to 57,702.Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that around 500,000 Zimbabweans are set to benefit from its so-called “Safety Net” activities that support school-based feeding, people affected by HIV/AIDS and mobile and vulnerable populations. The school-based programme, comprising 30 per cent of the agency’s safety net programme, is dependent on the start of the school term, which may be delayed. WFP’s cholera response has begun in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces, which has reached 12,600 patients and staff to date. In addition, WFP has established three new partnerships for cholera food support that will support people in seven districts. The cholera epidemic is just the latest crisis to strike Zimbabwe, which has been faced with a worsening humanitarian situation owing to years of failed harvests, bad governance and hyperinflation, as well as months of political tensions after disputed presidential elections in March involving the incumbent Robert Mugabe and the opposition figure Morgan Tsvangirai. Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by infection of the intestine. In five to 10 per cent of cases patients develop severe watery diarrhoea and vomiting from six hours to five days after exposure to the bacterium. The loss of large amounts of fluids can rapidly lead to severe dehydration and without proper treatment, death can occur within hours. Those who are malnourished or already have intestinal parasites can be at especially high risk of death.