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New cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Cholera has reappeared in Zimbabwe, where more than 4,300 people died of the disease in a recent epidemic, the United Nations Children's Fund reports.

UNICEF said Tuesday there have been at least five deaths in the current outbreak, The Times of London reported. The national Health Ministry said 117 cases of the disease have been reported around the country in the past month.

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Cholera, caused by a waterborne bacterium, spread in Zimbabwe as a result of the country's economic meltdown. Both water supplies and sewage disposal in large townships around the capital, Harare, and other poor areas, had ceased to function.

"The fundamentals of the last epidemic are still there. Water is only sporadically available, and sewerage reticulation and refuse collection are only partially working," UNICEF spokeswoman Tsitsi Singizi said.

Aid agencies predict the current epidemic will be less severe because some improvements have been made since Morgan Tsvangirai became prime minister.

"It's not the catastrophe that it was last year but it's still a big epidemic of an easily preventable disease that should never have been allowed to happen," a doctor for an aid agency who wanted to remain anonymous told the Times.

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