A current Cholera pandemic sweeps through Zimbabwe and, in the shadow of the impressive and prodigious media attention placed on the violence in Gaza, Russian gas blockage and Bernard Madoff's bail, the grave crisis remains largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.
For your own awareness, here's a quick update.
As of 29 December 2008, a total of 30,938 suspected cases and 1,551 deaths (WSJ claims 1,937 deaths) had been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). The vast majority of the infections have occurred only since October, 2008. The numbers are only worsening: statistics from Monday, January 12 show that 1,472 new cases and 117 new deaths from Cholera were added to the totals in one day, alone.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,
Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but sometimes it can be severe. Approximately one in 20 infected persons has severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these persons, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
In short, Cholera is not fun. Aside from the increasing amount of deaths in Zimbabwe, one of the most saddening things is that this disease can be easily prevented. There has not been a large outbreak of Cholera in the United States, for example, since 1911. The prevention of the disease solely requires proper sanitation and water treatment. Once contracted, the disease can be treated, too. The CDC claims,
"Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. ...With prompt rehydration, fewer than 1% of cholera patients die. "
The numbers coming out of Zimbabwe are sickening. Too many people are suffering and dying, and too few are acting on this crisis. Barack Obama must follow through on his promises to assist in mobilizing international pressure for a just government in Zimbabwe, to provide sustainable debt relief, and to strengthen the African Growth and Opportunity Act** to increase private investment in African nations. In the meantime, help your citizens Mugabe.
** Yes, I know the AGOA has its own problems, but it's a start.