The Zimbabwean capital, Harare, is offering free graves for victims of a cholera outbreak sweeping the southern African state, which a United Nations agency says is only the tip of a health crisis.

zim-now-21Nearly 400 people have died from the disease, preventable and treatable under normal conditions, which has infected more than 9,400 in the country and spread to some of its neighbours.

Harare City Council has decided to waive fees for burying victims of the water-borne disease as residents are already under pressure from an economic crisis, including shortages of food and banknotes, the state Herald newspaper said on Saturday.

“Council has since resolved to offer free graves to those who have died of cholera since most people are finding it hard to get cash to pay for the graves,” it quoted the town clerk as saying.A grave in Harare costs an average of $30, a teacher’s monthly salary at the current exchange rate.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday a lack of clean drinking water and adequate toilets were the main triggers for Zimbabwe’s epidemic of cholera, a diarrhoeal disease that is especially fatal for children.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said there are very few places where people infected with cholera in Zimbabwe can seek medical care, and the clinics that are open have far too few health workers to contain the outbreak.



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