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Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Cholera is 'S African disaster'

A Zimbabwean family wait a camp in Musina, South Africa (16/09/2008)
More than 660 people have been treated for cholera in Limpopo Province

South African officials have declared part of their border with Zimbabwe a disaster area amid a cholera outbreak.

"Extraordinary measures are needed to deal with the situation," Limpopo provincial government spokesman Mogale Nchabeleng told Reuters news agency.

He said the declaration affected Vhembe district, which includes the border crossing point of Musina.

Hundreds of Zimbabweans have sought treatment in South Africa as their health services are close to collapse.

Nearly 800 people have died from cholera in Zimbabwe and 16,000 have been treated.

In Limpopo, South Africa's northernmost province, at least eight people have died from the easily preventable disease and more than 660 people have been treated.

"The provincial government took a decision that the whole of the Vhembe district should be declared a disaster area," Mr Nchabeleng said.

The disaster status would free up funding and focus relief efforts, he added.

South African Health Minister Barbara Hogan visited the affected region on Wednesday to assess the situation.

She warned the epidemic would probably keep getting worse until a new government was formed in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been deadlocked in power-sharing negotiations for several months.

South Africa, led by former President Thabo Mbeki, is mediating the talks.

The MDC has accused Mr Mbeki of not putting enough pressure on Mr Mugabe to share power.

Some three million Zimbabweans are believed to have entered South Africa to seek work due to the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy.

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