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By Carli Lourens

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) — A cholera epidemic that started in Zimbabwe has spread to neighboring Botswana and Zambia as well as South Africa, the Southern African Development Community said.

The 15-nation group has sent a team to Zimbabwe “to assess the situation,” SADC’s secretariat said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday. The SADC team will consult with the World Health Organization and hold an emergency meeting with health ministers from some member states on Dec. 11.“The current spread of the cholera outbreak is also affecting Botswana, South Africa and Zambia,” SADC said. It didn’t provide details of how many people were infected in those countries.

The Zimbabwe cholera outbreak accompanied the collapse of the country’s health and sanitation systems following a decade of recession and political upheaval under President Robert Mugabe. The country’s health ministry reported 484 deaths and 11,735 cholera cases since August, according the Web site of the WHO.

Cholera, mainly spread through contaminated water and food and poor sanitation, causes severe diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to death.

The epidemic has escalated to an “international emergency,” U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, according to Times Online. Brown called on the international community to stand together and tell Mugabe “enough is enough,” it added.

SADC Failure

SADC has failed to persuade Mugabe to agree on a power- sharing deal with the Movement for Democratic Change after the opposition party won control of the nation’s parliament in March 29 elections.

There was no answer today when Bloomberg News contacted SADC’s head office in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.

“More than 300,000 people already seriously weakened by lack of food are in grave danger from the cholera epidemic currently sweeping Zimbabwe,” international aid agency Oxfam’s Zimbabwe country director Peter Mutoredzanwa said this week.

About 30,000 Zimbabweans flee cross the border into South Africa illegally each month, according to Pretoria, South Africa- based Rapport newspaper.

South Africa recorded 187 cases of cholera and three deaths in Limpopo province, which borders Zimbabwe, by Nov. 24, the country’s health department said Nov. 26. One was South African and two Zimbabwean citizens.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carli Lourens in Johannesburg at