Thursday, Dec 11, 2008, 1:55 pm
"On Friday, November 14, when the Zimbabwean health authorities in Beitbridge first reported cholera to MSF, there were five cases. Two days later, there were already more than 500. By the end of the week, over 1,500.
"Patients were first placed inside Beitbridge's main hospital, most lying on the cement floors in poor hygienic conditions. With only one or two cleaners available, it was impossible to manage the sanitary needs and decontaminate the ward. There was also a shortage of proper equipment, chemicals and water – not to mention that all the hospital toilets have been clogged for a long time.
"By Sunday morning, the hospital decided to put all the patients out behind the buildings, on the dirt, so that body excretions could be absorbed into the ground...
"The town of Beitbridge is a shifting tide of migrants, truckers, sex workers, unaccompanied children and desperate people trying to find a better life – mostly by attempting to cross the border into South Africa. With the current political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, basic services are lacking, especially in a town with such uncontrolled growth. There is rubbish everywhere. Open sewage runs through most of Beitbridges' streets. Almost everyday, there are cuts to water and electricity."
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Jarrett Dapier is a former assistant publisher at In These Times. Previous work for ITT includes interviews with playwright Christopher Shinn and Fugazi guitarist, Ian Mackaye. He currently works with teens at the Evanston Public Library where he runs a recycled drumming program and directs stage adaptations of young adult literature. He lives in Evanston, IL.