Failure by Harare City Council to provide basic water and sanitation services to its residents is fuelling the outbreak of water borne diseases such as typhoid and cholera, health experts have said. Water-borne diseases, the experts said, were primitive in this era. As such, the specialists called for the city to venture into private partnerships with developmental partners in order to resuscitate infrastructure which is failing to cope with the growing population.
The sentiments by the experts come after the death toll from typhoid in Harare has since risen to three from December last year.
The deaths have been recorded in Hatcliffe (1) and Mbare (2), while hundreds have been treated.
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on health member Dr Paul Chimedza said the prevention and control of water-borne diseases depends entirely on the provision of clean water and best sanitation practices.
Dr Chimedza, who is former Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, said the conditions in Harare were breeding ground for the bacteria as most areas do not have water.
He said even if medical personnel intervened, the outbreaks would be difficult to control.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Mr Itai Rusike said the solution rests on the city in not only consistently supplying clean water, but must be coupled with regular refuse collection, and ensuring that burst pipes are fixed and replaced.
“Typhoid is a primitive disease, which council should not struggle to contain. In Harare, we are not supposed to have alternative sources of water such as boreholes and unprotected wells, but if the need arises, the city should make sure that all the alternative sources are chlorinated,” he said.
Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians Dr Vonai Chimhamhiwa echoed similar sentiments saying: “The city’s water supply is highly susceptible to contamination because of the old pipe system that is still in use, hence any pipes that burst, get contaminated and the risk of transmission is very high.”
Ultramed Health medical Aid Society chief executive officer Dr Sydney Mukonoweshuro called for the revival of the city’s infrastructure and spirited campaigns that will educate residents to follow strict hygiene practices.
“The water-borne disease outbreaks must be understood from the acute migration that happened to Harare. The city that had an infrastructure to handle one million people woke up accommodating millions of people. The authorities have tried their best, but it is a problem that will require huge capital investment to expand and resuscitate infrastructure,” he said.
Harare City Council Health Services director Dr Prosper Chonzi said he was in agreement with the health experts that the permanent solution for the outbreaks will be to address all the environmental issues. He said instead of him battling chronic ailments such as HIV and Aids, tuberculosis and others, he was being left to react to diseases, which could be eliminated through the provision of water and sanitation.
On Hatcliffe, Dr Chonzi said the situation had improved as only three people had presented themselves with similar symptoms of typhoid.
Harare Water director Engineer Hosiah Chisango said council had been facing technical challenges in its bid to improve water supplies.
Harare needs at least 1 200 mega-litres to enable every household to have water everyday.
The city’s water department has been failing to cope with water demand over the years, mainly because the original infrastructure was designed to serve a population of 300 000.
The city’s population has since increased to almost 2,5 million without a corresponding expansion of water infrastructure.