Michael Chideme and Paidamoyo Chipunza
Government must declare water problems in cities and towns a national disaster following the outbreak of typhoid this week, an official has said.
Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Portia Manangazira, said the declaration would help mobilise resources.
Her comments come as 30 more people in Harare and 26 others in Chitungwiza were affected by typhoid yesterday.
This brings to more than 220 the people affected by typhoid in the two municipalities since the beginning of the week.
Dr Manangazira said all local authorities were unable to provide enough water to residents.
A recent study by the national typhoid capacity assessment concluded that no council is providing more than 60 percent of potable water requirements.
“Most of the water treatment plants are old and in need of replacement,” said Dr Manangazira.
“Declaring the water situation a national crisis will assist in mobilising funding for upgrading the water and sewer plants.”
Dr Manangazira said Government was failing to force local authorities to provide water and sewer delivery mandate as espoused by the Public Health Act because the State was aware of the funding constraints.
She said every household should use aqua tablets and any other form of chlorification and exercise strict hygiene and always wash hands after use of the toilet and before consuming food.
At least 43 sewer treatment plants across the country have collapsed, resulting in raw sewer finding its way into water catchments.
Harare residents yesterday demanded an immediate solution to the city’s growing water problems.
The State has directed that boreholes be drilled in Chitungwiza following a realisation that Harare cannot provide enough water to the satellite town.
Harare health services director Dr Prosper Chonzi said while the city had contained the typhoid in Tafara, “it was too early to celebrate” because the disease’s incubation period is 21 days.
Residents urged the city authorities to stop “ruralising urban centres”.
Mrs Veronica Masaire of Tafara suggested that the city should approve the use of Blair toilets in the suburb because of the water shortages.
Mrs Catherine Dumbura of the same suburb said women suffered the most as they have to travel long distances to fetch water.
“Those with nappies are in trouble. They have to go into the vleis and do their laundry at most three times a day,” she said.
Mrs Damares Chari said schoolchildren were being asked to use home toilets because school facilities were blocked and in bad condition.
It was observed that at some wells, residents were simply ignoring the basics of hygiene as soapy water found its way back into the wells.
Women did their laundry barely two metres away from the water sources. Some of the laundry included soiled baby nappies.
Mrs Esina Road of New Tafara said that the well she was drawing water from was the safest in the suburb.
“We drink this water. We do not boil it,” she said.