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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 10:38 GMT
South Africa cholera alert
South African boy collecting water
Clean water from tankers has been provided to stem the epidemic
All South Africa's provinces have been placed on alert as the government tries to prevent a cholera epidemic spreading beyond KwaZulu-Natal.

The move follows crisis talks on Tuesday between the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Since August, the epidemic has claimed more than 50 lives and infected more than 12,000 people in KwaZulu-Natal Province.


The government has described cholera as a disease of poverty - and it is the poorest who are most at risk

Health workers are expecting more cases as the rainy season continues in what is one of the worst cholera outbreaks in South Africa in recent years.

Over the past six months, the disease has swept through rural communities in eastern KwaZulu-Natal.

The rate of infection has increased dramatically with the onset of the rainy season, and hundreds of new cases have been reported in the past few days.

Health education

Ministers from three separate government departments have held talks with officials from the WHO in an attempt to find ways to contain the spread of the disease.

Following the meeting, the government said it would release extra funds to improve sanitation in the KwaZulu-Natal area and to pay for a wide-ranging public health campaign.

For its part, the WHO has promised to bring in experts to provide advice on how to prevent the spread of the disease.

The government has described cholera as a disease of poverty, and it is the poorest who are most at risk - particularly those who live in underdeveloped rural areas and rely on rivers and streams for their drinking water.

But critics have accused the government of exacerbating the problem by introducing charges for access to clean water - a move that has prompted some people to try to save money by getting their water from contaminated sources.

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02 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Cholera's genetic secrets revealed
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