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UNICEF airlifts cholera and health supplies to Zimbabwe

HARARE, 22 December 2008 – UNICEF’s first ever airlift of critical emergency supplies to Zimbabwe has landed in Harare, as Zimbabwe grapples with cholera and a collapsing health system.

The cargo – which includes intravenous (IV) fluids, drip equipment, essential drugs, midwifery and obstetric kits – will boost the UN Children’s Fund cholera response and aid government to deliver some essential health services to expecting mothers.

“This is a strategic measure to address a desperate situation,” said UNICEF Acting Representative in Zimbabwe, Roeland Monasch.  “We are already supplying 70 percent of the country’s essential drugs, and these airlifted supplies will further boost UNICEF’s lifesaving support.”

Supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Dutch government, the 140 metric tonne consignment provides intravenous and oral re-hydration supplies which are the first line of treatment in any management of cholera. The supplies also include essential midwifery kits for pregnant women.

"We are pleased to be helping with this effort as part of our US$15m package of support to the cholera epidemic and the wider crisis in the Zimbabwe health service,” said the Head of DFID Zimbabwe, Mr Phil Evans. “Saving lives is the most immediate priority, but a fundamental solution to the deeper crisis is also needed as a matter of urgency."

More than 1100 people have already died from cholera and nearly 24 000 cases have been reported in Zimbabwe. The situation is worsened by a health crisis characterized by the closure of major hospitals, a critical lack of drugs and equipment, and nurses and doctors not able to come to work. The combined result is the poor management of cholera cases and serious risks to women and children during child birth.

According to Joseph Weterings, the Dutch ambassador in Zimbabwe, the Government of the Netherlands is “deeply concerned by the entrenched humanitarian crisis that has led to tremendous suffering for the people of Zimbabwe”. In view of the collapse of  basic social services and in particular the spread of cholera and the worsening food situation the Netherlands has allocated an additional US$11,7 million in humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe. This comes in addition to the US$15 million already made available to Zimbabwe this year.

One more plane load will arrive at midnight later today and supplies will be distributed through the over 40 cholera treatment centres across Zimbabwe and the remaining functional health facilities.

UNICEF continues to intensify relief efforts around the cholera crisis, supplying more than half a million litres of safe drinking water every day, together with 3,800 tonnes of treatment chemicals for all urban areas in Zimbabwe as well as a range of other life saving intervention during the current emergency.

About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Tsitsi Singizi, UNICEF Zimbabwe, Tel: 263-91 2 943 915, tsingizi@unicef.org
Veronique Taveau, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: 41 22 909 5716, vtaveau@unicef.org
Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF Africa Service Unit, Tel:  27 79 495 5938, sbloemen@unicef.org


 

 

 

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19 December 2008: UNICEF's Tsitsi Singizi tells the story of Nigel Chigudu, 15, who lost five siblings to Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak in one night.
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