The Zimbabwean central bank has now been forced to issue 50-billion Zimbabwean-dollar notes - just enough to buy two loaves of bread: if anyone can still find any bread. Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced the new bank note on Saturday.
In addition to this surrealistic rate of hyper-inflation, chronic famine and a lack of clean drinking water, Zimbabwe also remains in the grip of a steadily-widening cholera epidemic in which at least 1,700 people have reportedly died, with some 35,000 infected. seeCholera caused by famine:
This cholera epidemic, caused by fecal contamination in the drinking water, is also directly caused by the famine: in African societies, pigs are kept around homesteads to clean up human fecal matter.
Pigs all slaughtered - and they cleaned up the fecal matter...
However all the pigs have been slaughtered months ago for the cooking pots - so the feces now washes into the streams and water-wells whenever it rains. The rainy season started with the first downpour on 18 November , and the cholera epidemic showed up just a few days later. seeLimpopo river infected with cholera:
The current epidemics in Zimbabwe and the northern-most Limpopo province of South Africa, where thousands have also been infected and at least 20 have died, are interlinked: the two countries share the Limpopo river as a border, where cholera vibrio have been found in large quantities due to a constant stream of fecal contamination washing into the river from neighbouring villages and squatter camps.
All the residents in the many villages located on both sides of the crocodile-infested Limpopo river have been suffering frequent bouts of cholera since November.
Officials in both sides of the river also continue to deny that the river water is infected - however public health nurses and doctors have had the water tested independently and say the river is filthy.
However when the pigs are removed from traditional African villages – as could also be seen in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa during a swine-fever outbreak in 2003 – cholera often breaks out shortly thereafter.
Medical authorities at the tented re-hydration centres set up to treat the patients outside public hospitals and clinics in South Africa - and who also treat a large number of Zimbabwean patients coming across the border in the hundreds every day -- say the number of new patients still increase steadily each day. Once re-hydrated, patients recover within just hours. Without it, they die very quickly. Nobody knows how many people have simply died without anyone knowing it was of cholera. There are no public-health officials making visits to villages to investigate this problem further. Only those people still strong enough to report to the clinics are cited in the public health records.
The main problem is that the source of the infection is not being cleaned up - the river water is drunk unfiltered by hundreds of thousands of residents and there are no large emergency filtration sites set up where residents could fetch clean drinking water from, either. So the problem just gets worse and worse.
The epidemic is still spreading steadily throughout the region: cholera outbreaks are also reported in other provinces of South Africa which have no direct connection with the Limpopo outbreak.
The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are the hardest hit in this latest epidemic.
The Eastern Cape epidemic is particularly vicious: it started from 2003, when the government decided to eradicate the entire herd of 161,000 pigs to stop African Swine Fever from spreading to commercial farms. And it now has become endemic, reappearing every year.
Local politician Lance Greyling of the Independent Democratic party in South Africa explained why:
“Pig farming plays a vital role in the rural economy – they are firstly a store of wealth, which people consider as their banks and, secondly, in areas where there are no sewerage systems, the pigs eat the waste.
"What happens when you kill pigs in this kind of environment is that you get fecal run-off into the rivers, leading to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid.'
‘Tribal pig farming therefore plays a vital role in both the economy and the ecosystem of the area.’ See /