updated 11/21/2008 1:46:31 PM ET 2008-11-21T18:46:31

The World Health Organization said Friday that 294 people have died from a cholera outbreak exacerbated by the country's collapsing health care system.

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WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said that a total 6,072 cases had been reported between the start of August and Nov. 18, with an upsurge in cases in the past two weeks.

A lack of clean water and poorly maintained sewage systems have allowed the waterborne intestinal disease to thrive. Zimbabwe's deepening political and economic crisis has crippled the country's health system.

The U.N health body warned that with the start of the rainy season, the outbreak was likely to continue as the water and sanitation situation is worsening. Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, has warned that 1.4 million people are at risk.

Doctors in Zimbabwe earlier demonstrated against the country's collapsing health care system and blamed the government for the disease's spread. The cholera outbreak has caused a crisis in hospitals in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, and also has reached over the border into neighboring South Africa.

A WHO statement issued in Geneva, Switzerland, said it was working with the government and other international aid groups to try to control the epidemic.

More on cholera   |  Zimbabwe

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