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Fresh concerns on service delivery as typhoid outbreak grips Harare

Fresh concerns on service delivery as typhoid outbreak grips Harare

In 2008, Zimbabwe witnessed a cholera outbreak which spread across many high density suburbs in Hare including Budiriro and Glen View. More than 800 lives were lost.

Health experts mostly blamed the outbreak on chronic water shortages coupled with overcrowding, inconsistent refuse collection and poor sewer retention. To the great relief of Harare residents, the government, in combined efforts with non-governmental organizations (NGOS) managed to bring the outbreak under control.

However, three years later, Harare is experiencing a Typhoid outbreak, largely attributed to water scarcity which has led to residents relying on unsafe water sources. Strangely, the City of Harare has turned a blind eye on the typhoid outbreak as evidenced by the failure of the city's health department to respond to the emerging health crisis.

 

At least 50 people have reportedly been under observation while 21 have so far been hospitalized as a result of typhoid. It is believed that tens of cases have yet gone unreported. The typhoid fears come as residents are already on high alert for a possible return of cholera.

The Harare City Council has consistently failed to provide clean, safe drinking water to its residents. Some parts of Harare such as Glen Norah, Budiriro, Mufakose, Gunhill, Ruwa, Highlands, Mandara, Chisipite, Malbereign, Waterfalls, Borrowdale, Greendale, Hatcliffe and Highfields, go for months without running water while other areas including Mabvuku, Tafara and Msasa Park last had running water in 2006.

 

These shortages have resulted in residents scrambling for access to water sources such as boreholes across the city. Borehole water is much safer than tap water. Throughout the city, groups of women and children carrying buckets of water have become common sight as they move from one unprotected water source to the other. Water is the essence of life. Safe drinking water and sanitation are indispensable to sustain life and health and fundamental to the dignity of all.

 

In order to address the typhoid crisis and avoid yet another cholera outbreak, the inclusive government, through the City of Harare, must act swiftly and focus on the core genesis of the water crisis in Harare - poor service delivery. Admittedly, the inclusive government, formed in February 2009, inherited a legacy of infrastructure destruction from the ZANU-PF government, which remarkably failed to address the growing needs of the city and therefore proceeded with unimaginative policies, the result of which is the near total collapse of service delivery in Harare and many other cities in Zimbabwe.

While sanitation is not recognized as a self-standing right in Zimbabwe, the crises besetting all municipalities in Zimbabwe provide clear evidence of the need to strongly consider the inclusion of such a right in the upcoming constitution. Regional and International treaties including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and African charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) specifically require states to ensure everyone's access to a sufficient amount of safe drinking water.

In 2002, the United Nation Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights insisted that all citizens have a right to "sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses." Hence, the government of Zimbabwe should fulfill its obligations by ensuring that safe water is made available to all Zimbabweans regardless of their social and economic standing to avert communicable diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

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