Nearly all were from Zimbabwe, where the government declared a national emergency Thursday because of the cholera epidemic ravaging its population and reaching farther each day into neighboring countries such as this one. South Africa announced Friday that it would send military doctors to the border to treat cholera victims, and would send clean water and other aid into Zimbabwe, along with a fact-finding team that will recommend additional humanitarian steps.
"At the moment I knew something was wrong, I had to come here to Musina," said Godfrey Mawunganidze, 40, a Zimbabwean cross-border trader who lay under a tree, a damp towel covering his head. "Because if you go to a hospital in Zimbabwe, that's a dead zone."
Zimbabwe's humanitarian and economic crisis is so dire that millions have fled the nation, where sewage and health-care systems are nearly defunct and food is scarce. Cholera, which is spread through contaminated water and food, has become a symbol of the regional spillover of Zimbabwe's devastation.
But as it crosses borders, the outbreak may also serve as a catalyst for neighboring countries to become more involved in ending months of political impasse that has defied regional mediation and international pressure.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, traveling in Europe, said Friday that the cholera should be a signal to other nations to stand up the government Robert Mugabe, who was re-elected in an internationally condemned election in June. Rice told reporters it was "well past time" for Mugabe to resign. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the deteriorating situation was "a further illustration of the misrule of Zimbabwe's rogue government."
Both Britain and the Netherlands are urging tougher EU sanctions against Mugabe's regime. Mugabe blames Western sanctions for his once-productive nation's ravaged economy and the desperate plight of an increasing number of its citizens.
In recent months, cholera has killed more than 570 people and infected more than 12,700 others in Zimbabwe. The disease has since surfaced in Botswana and Mozambique. Zambia, to the north, is screening for symptoms at border posts.
Health workers in the province surrounding Musina, where cholera was last reported in 2001, have treated more than 435 patients in recent weeks, nearly 90 percent Zimbabwean. The crocodile-infested river along the border here has tested positive for the cholera bacteria, South African health officials said, probably because Zimbabwean communities with no sewage systems are flushing waste into the waterway.