Prostitutes at Nyamapanda Border Post have started charging "Ebola risk insurance" in a bid to use the deadly outbreak to shake down truck drivers from outside Zimbabwe for extra cash.

Nyamapanda, on the border with Mozambique, is one of the access points used by truckers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has been affected by the Ebola outbreak that has now killed more than 3,000 in West Africa.

The DRC's outbreak was however, independent of the more serious West African crisis. Infections reached 62 but Kinshasa has made huge progress in containing the outbreak with no new cases recorded in the last 12 days although this has not discouraged commercial sex workers at Nyamapanda.

Nyamapanda sex workers said they decided to use Ebola to make more money because business was down with local clients who have decided to zip it because of the country's economic challenges.

The truck-in area at the border post is a busy 24-hour hub of activity between the sex workers, truck drivers and refuges escaping instability in central and east Africa.

A sex worker who calls herself Angela said the ‘Ebola risk allowance' was just a way of making more money from sex-starved and desperate truck drivers.

"My brother, anyone infected with Ebola cannot drive all the way from the DRC to Zimbabwe – Ebola kills fast. So this (risk charge) is just a way of making more money.

"We usually charge US$5 short time and now we can get an extra fiver from the risk allowance," she said.

Angela was supported by friend, Mercy, who said: "We charge the extra fee to truck drivers only.

"They sometimes spend several days here and we know that they want to quench their sexual appetite and most of them do not hesitate to pay that extra charged compared to locals."

The Director of Katswe Sisterhood, an organisation that works to empower sex workers about their sexual and reproductive rights, said more information needed to be disseminated to commercial sex workers.

"I have not had the opportunity to confirm whether this is true or not but it is also good to realise that women in our area do put themselves first and are quite alert.

"This also provides an opportunity to recognise the need for responsible authorities and service providers to support them with information and services that will ensure they are protected from contracting the virus," said Talent Jumo.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed at weekend that the Ebola death toll has now surpassed 3,000 in West Africa with 6,500 people believed to be infected.

The outbreak is the world's most deadly – US President Barack Obama has called it a "threat to global security".

In Zimbabwe, 98 peple have been put under observation for possible infection.
The government has been on high alert with health desks established at all of the country's entry points to screen passengers coming from West Africa and other affected countries.

If any suspect cases are identified they will be transferred to an isolation centre at Harare's Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital where patients are screened in line with the set protocol of the Ministry of Health and Child Care regarding Ebola virus diseases (EVD) Management.   

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