The International Committee of the Red Cross is stepping up its response to the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe by bringing in additional medical supplies.
Humanitarian agencies say that the disease has claimed more than 560 lives, and more than 12,500 cases have been reported.
The Swiss-led ICRC, which is based in Geneva, says more than 13 tonnes of medical supplies have arrived at Harare airport from its regional logistics centre in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
They include a complete cholera kit weighing more than six tonnes and containing about 4,000 litres of rehydration fluids, infusion sets, antibiotics, needles, gloves and other medical supplies.
The rest of the consignment – seven tonnes of medical supplies – will be distributed to ICRC-supported health facilities, which include 15 clinics and three district hospitals in remote rural areas.
"The situation has been difficult for the people and now with this cholera outbreak it is becoming even more difficult. The humanitarian community is facing a very serious challenge in order to be able to contain it," the ICRC's Robin Waudo in Harare told German-language Swiss radio.
According to health professionals, the spread of cholera has been aggravated by lack of access to safe water. Some health-care facilities in Harare's suburbs are affected by this problem, and the ICRC continues to transport water to two clinics it has been supporting since the beginning of November.
Zimbabwe declared a national emergency on Thursday as it attempted to stop the outbreak and appealed for international assistance.
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