Zimbabwe Fixed in Stalemate as Cholera Outbreak Worsens

It’s a strange time right now–almost bittersweet. The election of the United States’ first African-American president, a remarkable and inspiring moment in the country’s history, is somewhat dulled by the many disheartening events that we’ve been battling for what feels like an eternity.

I was reading an article from the Wall Street Journal today concerning the current state of Zimbabwe, and one particular quote stood out to me: “The whole country is turning into some kind of giant mortuary.” (Douglas Gwatidza, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights). A giant mortuary–yes, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Cholera deaths in Zimbabwe have increased by more than 20 percent in the last week alone, leaving the mortality count at almost 2,800, and more than 50,000 infected. According to the International Federation of Red Cross, the people of Zimbabwe and northern South Africa will continue to suffer for many more weeks if more funding and effort is not put into this humanitarian struggle.

South African Health Minister Barbara Hogan has announced that this outbreak can be contained with the help of response teams as well as a committee put together by the Health Department to fight cholera. The disease has spread from Zimbabwe into the South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Hogan has expressed great concern but shows confidence in the plan to tackle the outbreak.

While the South African government has been left with the burden of combating this health crisis, the Zimbabwean government has found itself slipping further into disarray. Next week, a summit on the political crisis will be held in Pretoria with the goal of setting up a new government by the end of the conference. However, the negotiations may come to an abrupt end. President Robert Mugabe and his opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are currently in an impasse in the battle for power. The dispute revolves around which party should control the top public sectors. The MDC has made a list of demands, including equal division of the key public posts, a new security council, release of detained activists, and for the reversal of all appointments of executive officers made by Mugabe in the last six months. Mugabe, however, stands firm in his opposition and refuses to surrender to any of the MDC’s demands.

Political mayhem, a cholera crisis, a disturbingly severe economic panic and a stalemate in the one battle that could fix it all. Zimbabwe seems to be hanging on by a thread and analysts foresee no end in sight. It makes you wonder: What will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?