Cholera soars while funds dry up

Note: The following appeal is now closed.  You can support our ongoing work by donating to the Canadian Red Cross


In January Zimbabwe passed a grim milestone - cholera case number 60,001. 

In late December, 60,000 was considered the worst case scenario. Now there are fears that the toll could climb to 100,000 or beyond. Whatever the final number, Zimbabwe is in the grip of the worst cholera outbreak on its continent in 15 years and has surpassed Africa’s continent-wide annual average of cases and deaths. 

And yet despite pledges of solidarity from around the world, efforts made by the humanitarian community to arrest this slide are being undermined because we are rapidly running out of funds. 

In a typical case in a Red Cross cholera clinic in Kadoma,a young woman arrived on an oxcart.. Cholera is not a difficult illness to treat so she will survive. However, many villages have no means of transportation and are not within a manageable distance so their situation remains grim.,

The truth is that Zimbabwe’s economic and infrastructural collapse sit hand-in-hand with this cholera outbreak. 

Despite these challenges the Red Cross plays a key role in ending this outbreak. The infrastructure issues must be addressed, but they are longer-term concerns. Right now, our focus is on stopping infections and deaths. Turning the tide of cholera is literally an urgent matter of life and death. 

The Red Cross is making an impact in Zimbabwe. For starters, we are producing millions of litres of clean water and digging sanitary latrines. We are supporting overworked and under resourced clinics and local volunteers are in the remotest villages explaining to people the simple steps they must take to identify and avoid the illness.

Four Canadian delegates have been deployed to assist with relief efforts there and the Canadian Red Cross will continue to provide resources and personnel as needed, but we require the support of the Canadian public to do this.

Despite the desperate needs, and despite the very real impact that the Red Cross is having across the country, our cholera operation is scarily under-funded. Unless this changes we will be forced to revise our plans. And this is simply untenable. 

We have already seen one ‘worst case scenario’ overtaken. The people of Zimbabwe – can’t afford another.  The resources needed for battling cholera on the frontlines must be provided. The death toll already exceeds three thousand. We cannot let it reach four thousand. That would be one milestone too many, too grim and entirely unnecessary.