30 September 2009 - The United Nations today provided hundreds of bicycles and motorcycles for Zimbabwean health workers to respond to potential cholera and flu outbreaks, the latest in a series of steps by the world body to help the southern African country confront acute humanitarian needs.
The 300 black bicycles and 124 bright red motor cycles, purchased by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) with $500,000 from the Central Emergency Response Fund, will enable health workers to move quickly to prepare for and respond to potential health concerns, including cholera outbreaks and the H1N1 flu pandemic.
"These items will support Zimbabwe's intensified response to the 2008-09 cholera outbreak that infected almost 100,000 people and killed about 4,000," WHO representative Custodia Mandlhate said.
The bicycles will be given to village health workers in three districts, with each worker equipped with a blue sports-like bag packed with basic health supplies, including oral re-hydration salts, water purification tablets, bandages and disinfectant to help deliver basic and potentially life-saving care.
The motorcycles will be distributed to each of Zimbabwe's 62 districts to help disease surveillance officers travel between towns and villages collecting suspected disease samples and safely taking them to laboratories for investigation.
"WHO and the other members of the Health Cluster are determined to help the country continue to strengthen its health care system so it can provide the highest level of health care possible to all Zimbabweans," Dr. Mandlhate said.
Earlier this month the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it would distribute seeds and fertilizers to Zimbabwe's farmers to combat hunger, while the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a $70-million programme to ensure that over 700,000 vulnerable children are in school and guarantee a textbook for each child in all of the country's 5,300 primary schools within 12 months.