Zimbabwe Cholera Epidemic Spills Into Neighboring Countries

01/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MUSINA, South Africa -- Zimbabwe's crumbling economy and services have transformed this South African border town into a teeming district of shoppers, asylum-seekers and job hunters. Now something new has traveled south across the river that divides the two countries: cholera.

This week, the front lawn of Musina's lone, 80-bed hospital was a scene of despair. Beneath trees exploding with yellow and red blossoms, more than 100 adults and children lay inside steamy tents and under bushes, intravenous tubes stretching from the backs of their hands to bags of liquid hanging from tree trunks. Some, suffering through the gravest stages of an illness that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration, wore nothing but adult-size diapers.

Nearly all were from Zimbabwe, where the government declared a national emergency Thursday because of the cholera epidemic ravaging its population and reaching farther each day into neighboring countries such as this one. South Africa announced Friday that it would send military doctors to the border to treat cholera victims, and would send clean water and other aid into Zimbabwe, along with a fact-finding team that will recommend additional humanitarian steps.

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