Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

'No water' in cholera-hit Harare

Zimbabwe cholera
Sanitation systems have broken down, fuelling the spread of cholera

Much of the Zimbabwe capital, Harare, is without water, state media reports, at a time of a cholera outbreak.

Water was cut because of a shortage of purification chemicals, The Herald newspaper quotes water authority officials as saying.

At least 425 people have died in recent months from cholera - a disease spread by contaminated water.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said people should stop shaking hands to prevent the disease spreading.

"I want to stress the issue of shaking hands. Although it's part of our tradition to shake hands, it's high time people stopped shaking hands," he told The Herald.

Today is one of my busiest days. I have sold more than 20 containers since morning
George Munetsi
Water vendor

More than 11,000 people have infected with cholera around the country since August.

Cholera is endemic in Zimbabwe but this is the worst outbreak since 2000.

One unnamed official told The Herald that they were awaiting delivery of the chemicals from South Africa.

Several Harare residents have resorted to digging wells in their yards, while long queues have formed wherever people are selling water, reports the AFP news agency.

"Today is one of my busiest days. I have sold more than 20 containers since morning," said water vendor George Munetsi.

The spread of cholera has been fuelled by the collapse of Zimbabwe's health and sanitation systems.

The disease is easily treatable but hospitals lack medicines and staff.

The government has blamed this on Western sanctions it says are aimed at trying to bring down President Robert Mugabe.

But the sanctions imposed after allegations of electoral fraud and political violence are aimed at Mr Mugabe and his close associates and consist of travel bans and a freeze on their foreign assets.

Zimbabwe is struggling with an economic crisis - the latest annual inflation rate was 231,000,000% and just one adult in five is estimated to have a regular job.

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