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BOSTON ? International relief and development agency Oxfam America has been awarded $1 million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to respond to a deadly cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. The funding will support Oxfam?s work to help 135,000 people have access to safe water and sanitation facilities and reduce the spread of the disease in addition to supporting community awareness efforts.
?This funding will help save lives and prevent further suffering to hundreds of thousands of people in Zimbabwe,? said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. ?With the oncoming rainy season, an already devastating cholera outbreak could become catastrophic unless issues of unsafe water and sanitation are addressed.?
The funding will enhance Oxfam?s existing response by providing safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. In addition, the initiative will sensitize community members to effectively identify the disease and instruct them to seek immediate treatment when it occurs, and teach them how to prevent contamination to others. Lastly, the funding will also support community members initiating their own community based Cholera Early Warning Systems to collect data and identify potential risks to their water sources to reduce the spread of the disease.
?Immediate treatment for those affected, and the implementation of prevention measures, are critical to helping stop the further spread of this disease in Zimbabwe,? said Chip Lyons, director of Special Initiatives in the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ?Oxfam?s long-standing track record of responding to international emergencies make them well positioned to not only provide relief, but also to establish a foundation for community awareness around prevention.?
?Not only will this award be used for immediate response, but it will also be used for prevention,? said Ransom Mariga, head of Oxfam America?s program in Zimbabwe. ?This is especially important for the many people in Zimbabwe who are hungry and for whom cholera would be lethal.?
Cholera is a water-borne disease. This outbreak is a result of the breakdown of health, basic water and sanitation services and has already killed over 1,600 people since August and infected over 33,000 around the country, according to the World Health Organization. Zimbabweans are desperately short of food, health care, clean water and safe sanitation. In addition to the cholera outbreak, at least 3.8 million people do not have enough to eat ? going without food for days at a time. Oxfam has been responding to the humanitarian emergency through food distribution and limited water and hygiene work.