HARARE — Zimbabwe’s government pleaded for international help yesterday after declaring a national emergency over a cholera epidemic that has left 565 dead, as Britain warned the country has become a “failed state”.
The South African government announced yesterday that President Kgalema Motlanthe will call an urgent meeting of key ministers to consider how South Africa can work with the region and aid organisations to address the urgent need for food and choera treatment in Zimbabw.
Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko said the government is “extremely” concerned. “The government’s primary objective now is to save innocent lives in Zimbabwe.”
On the food shortages, Maseko said: “All indications are that people are beginning to die of starvation and we cannot fold our arms and allow this to happen. It is time for urgent action by ourselves and our neighbouring countries in SADC.”
Maseko said the government will extend help on cholera into Zimbabwe, so people do not have to cross the border.
The state-run Herald reported unusually frank remarks by Zimbabwe’s government that the cholera outbreak and breakdown of the health system are national emergencies and that it has appealed for international aid.
“Our central hospitals are literally not functioning,” Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told the paper.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused Mugabe of turning Zimbabwe into a “failed state”, as he announced an unspecified increase in humanitarian aid.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said over 13 tons of medical supplies have arrived in Harare, and the World Health Organisation said it would supply $340 000 worth of drugs and supplies.