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Kuwadzana residents speak out on typhoid

On Friday, the 17th of February 2012, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition together with Combined Harare Residents Association held a Meet the People Forum at Kuwadzana 2 Community Hall. The topic of discussion was Typhoid Outbreak: What is the extent of the Outbreak and what can be done to stem the outbreak in a long term manner? The event was graced by Honourable Member of Parliament for Kuwadzana Nelson Chamisa who is also the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology, Dr Rutendo Bonde who is the Chairperson of Zimbabwe Association of Doctor for Human Rights, Mr. Itai Rusike, the Director of the Community Working Group on Health, Simbarashe Moyo who is Chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents Association; and Mr Tsoka, a representative from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare who also came on behalf of the Ministry's director of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Dr Munangazira. Also in attendance were councillors, Mr. Mangwiro and Mr. Mandere.

The meeting, attended by over 150 residents, discussed the typhoid outbreak that arose in Harare in October 2012 and had most devastating effects in areas like Kuwadzana, Dzivarasekwa and Warren Park. Speaker after speaker blamed the outbreak on City of Harare's poor service delivery. Mr. Tsoka told the gathering that as of the 13th February, 2716 cases of disease had been reported; and of these, 1279 were from Kuwadzana. He said the typhoid scourge is everyone's problem and thus demanded a collective response for it to be solved.

Dr. Bonde, who gave a human rights perspective to the outbreak, said the government, through its failure to set up adequate primary prevention mechanisms, was denying Zimbabweans their fundamental right to health. She urged residents to stand up and demand accountability from the government.

The government was called on to honour the Abuja Declaration, to which it is a signatory, by allocating 15% of the country's total budget to the health ministry. Mr. Rusike, who described typhoid as a medieval disease, said this would enable the ministry to whip into life and assist local authorities when they failed to cope. He called for the amendment of the Public Health Act of 1924; to make it more suited to the current situation and to give provisions that address the weak urban primary health structures currently in place. Mr. Rusike also encouraged political leaders to desist from politicizing health issues and to take responsibility by giving the issues the attention they deserve.

Honourable Nelson Chamisa, who spoke in his capacity as Kuwadzana East legislator, bemoaned the government's failure to protect its people. He described the typhoid outbreak as a testimony to the fact that the current government is failing and that even if cholera and typhoid outbreaks were contained, there would still be an urgent need to address the issue of a failing government. However he also castigated the city council for failing to provide essential services like safe drinking water, consistent refuse collection and repair of burst sewer pipes; and yet demand that residents pay rates every month.

The residents of Kuwadzana expressed dissatisfaction over the city council's failure to take a pro-active stance towards diarrhoeal disease outbreaks, saying that the same conditions that resulted in the 2008 Cholera outbreak had been allowed to prevail and thus gave rise to the typhoid outbreak. Councillors, Mr. Mandere and Mr. Mangwiro, however, took the opportunity to re-affirm their commitment to serve the people in their respective wards and also called on the government to prioritise the construction of the Kunzvi Dam to boost water supply to Harare and Chitungwiza.

The speaker also urged people to practise strict personal hygiene by boiling water before drinking; and by washing hands with soap or ash after using the toilet and before handling food.

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