Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Typhoid is still endemic in Harare’s Glen View high-density suburb, with another 13 suspected new cases recorded in recent weeks by the City Health Department .
Residents have urged council to prioritise the provision of safe water and sanitary conditions to residents to avoid such disease outbreaks.
Typhoid is not new to Glen View, where the last outbreak that hit the suburb at the beginning of this year claimed 49 lives, while over 10 000 people were treated and discharged.
City Health Director Dr Prosper Chonzi said the cases seem to have been contained.
“Yesterday (Thursday) we saw five cases, three suspected typhoid and two diarrhoea. All cases so far seem to have been contained. All typhoid cases are still suspected, none have so far been confirmed,” said Dr Chonzi.
Mrs Portia Mufandaedza, a Glen View resident, said: “Nothing has really changed in relation to water provision, collection of garbage and sewer bursts. Water supplies are still erratic, forcing us to rely on either boreholes or unprotected wells. Refuse trucks are not collecting garbage, forcing people to dump garbage on open spaces. Sewer bursts are still common and council always takes its time to attend to them.”
Another resident, Mr Marcus Madondo, accused council of being reactionary.
“You will only see them providing water in bowsers, providing aqua tablets, clearing garbage and collecting refuse only when there are reports of an outbreak.
“They already know our challenges and each time there is an outbreak, they come here in their vehicles and promise to attend to the same issues but all the enthusiasm is gone as soon as they leave,” said Mr Madondo.
Residents said recent reports of typhoid unsettled them considering that the same water and sanitation challenges that caused previous outbreaks have not been addressed.
Dr Chonzi, however, said in all of the reported cases so far, the patients never received vaccination against typhoid or cholera.
He said of concern was the fact that some of the cases were traced back to the Tichagarika area, which has become a traditional epicentre for cholera or typhoid.
“We have already dispatched teams in the community who are visiting homes to identify and offer mitigatory measures to those who might be having signs and symptoms of typhoid. We do not want to wait until cases have gone out of hand, but our worry is that while a majority of the cases are coming from areas around Glen View Polyclinic, some are still being traced back to Tichagarika shops,” said Dr Chonzi.
Asked why Tichakagarika has become a hotspot for diarrhoeal diseases, in particular typhoid and cholera, Dr Chonzi said the general environment was unhygienic.
He however, said the local authority was trying to establish the safety of underground water and piped water.
“It is also of concern to us that this area keeps getting cases of diarrhoeal diseases. Although the water and sanitation situation has not improved much around this area, we are also trying to assess the community’s underground water, sewer lines and piped water to see if there could be any leaks somewhere, which keep bringing back these diseases,” said Dr Chonzi.
Council, he said, was compiling data on the effectiveness of the typhoid vaccination, which was administered to residents between the ages of six months and 45 years from nine selected high-density and typhoid-burdened suburbs in Harare, including Glen View.
Preliminary information showed that the intervention was worth it.
“The data we have analysed so far is encouraging because it shows that
the vaccine indeed protected people against typhoid. All cases we have seen so far were never vaccinated and we pray that we do not get any cholera case as we go into 2020.”
The Government rolled out an oral cholera vaccine to high-density suburbs, including Glen View.
Cholera and typhoid had almost become endemic diseases in south western Harare high-density suburbs with public health experts blaming poor water and sanitation provision in the affected areas.
In areas such as Glen View, water supply is erratic, forcing residents to resort to unprotected sources, garbage is rarely collected and sewer bursts are endless.
Council has been blamed for not responding quickly to sewer bursts giving sewage time to seep into the ground and contaminate underground water which residents rely on in the absence of tap water.
Glen View is one of the high density areas in Harare, which had a number of boreholes drilled by non-governmental organisations in response to water shortages while the residents themselves also dug shallow wells at their homes — all of which are sometimes contaminated by sewage through seepage.