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Cholera Epidemic Is Latest Zimbabwe Crisis to Spill Into Neighboring Countries

Zimbabweans struggle to find food and clean water during a raging cholera outbreak, while even burying the dead has become difficult in a devastated economy and unstable political situation.
[MAP: Suspected cholera cases in Zimbabwe]

Western diplomats and health-care workers say emergency services are nonexistent because of shortages of supplies and staff. Power outages mean surgeries are performed by the light of cellphones. A scarcity of coal means medical waste is incinerated only sporadically.

Those who get sick stay at home or travel to rural mission hospitals, which one Western diplomat described as "overflowing." Private clinics require cash deposits of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

"It's insurmountable. So people die," said one doctor working in Harare, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid the attention of authorities.

So some have come to Musina, a town now used to handling crushes of Zimbabweans. It can take hours to get through the border post into South Africa, well worth it to Zimbabweans seeking massive bags of cornmeal and boxes of soap available in far more abundance and for far less than in Zimbabwe.

Those without visas crawl through the many holes in the desolate border fence. Many sleep outside the town's fairgrounds, where immigration authorities take applications for asylum. The site has become a cholera hot spot, health officials say: On a recent day, there were six portable toilets for thousands of asylum-seekers.

Mawunganidze, the trader, said his Harare suburb had not had water for eight months. Everything, he said, had ground to a halt.

But he said he felt encouraged by what he interpreted as South Africa's tougher stance on Mugabe. Perhaps, he said, the United Nations could come into Zimbabwe "in a big way."

Then again, he wasn't sure.

"Is the world listening?" he asked, adjusting the brick that served as a pillow under his head. "Otherwise, we might be talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking."

He paused, then asked again.

"Is the world listening?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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