Africa

Zimbabwe cholera outbreak: Anger at crowdfunding scheme

A nurse takes care of cholera patients during a visit of Zimbabwe Minister of Health, Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than 3,000 people have been infected with cholera

Zimbabwe has launched a crowdfunding campaign to deal with an outbreak of cholera that has so far killed 25 people, mostly in the capital, Harare.

New Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube sent an appeal on Twitter, sharing a mobile payment account number.

An emergency has been declared and public gatherings banned in Harare to prevent the spread of infection.

Some Zimbabweans have criticised the fundraising plan on Twitter, accusing the state of misusing public money.

In 2008, a cholera outbreak killed some 4,000 people and at least 100,000 people fell ill.

This was a key factor in persuading President Robert Mugabe to agree a power-sharing government with the opposition, as the government did not have the money to deal with the outbreak.

The current outbreak began on 6 September after water wells were contaminated with sewage in Harare.

Tests found the presence of cholera and typhoid-causing bacteria which has so far infected over 3,000 people, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo told reporters on Thursday.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), patients were not responding to first-line antibiotics.

"Relevant medicines should be purchased as a matter of urgency as soon as resistance patterns have been ascertained," it said.

WHO also said the disease has spread to five of the country's 10 provinces.

'Inauguration' postponed

The health emergency has forced the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to postpone this weekend's mock inauguration of its leader, Nelson Chamisa, as president.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nelson Chamisa says he won the July presidential election

Mr Chamisa has refused to back down from his claim that he won the 30 July election, even after the Constitutional Court dismissed his legal challenge against President Emmerson Mnangagwa's victory.

The police had earlier withdrawn their permission for it go ahead, citing the ban on public gatherings imposed because of the cholera outbreak.

His party now says the swearing in will be held at a "later date".

Guaranteed healthcare pledge

The cholera outbreak can be traced to Harare city council's struggle to supply water to some suburbs for more than a decade, forcing residents to rely on water from open wells and community boreholes, according to Reuters news agency.

Health officials are advising people to wash their hands regularly, drink only safe water, wash food, cook it thoroughly and avoid shaking hands.

The government-controlled Herald reports that the crowdfunding campaign has already received some backers including telecommunication giant Econet Wireless, which has contributed $10m (£7m).

The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society has launched its own appeal.

Mr Ncube's plan has been condemned on social media:

Lawyer Fadzayi Mahere wanted to remind newly elected President Emmerson Mnangagwa of his campaign promise:

This user saw the campaign as another ploy from the political class:

While Twitter user Bruce Zvandasara said it was more worthwhile than the opposition's call for funds to pay for their legal challenge to Mr Mnangagwa's July election victory:

This Twitter user wondered why the government had the money to charter a private plane to bring back former first lady Grace Mugabe from Singapore when her mother died, but does not have funds to deal with a public health emergency:

Correction 19 September 2018: This story was amended to say that the Zimbabwe Red Cross has set up its own cholera appeal rather than contributing to the crowdfunding scheme.

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