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The Crisis Comment On"¦ Typhoid: Its Not Sanctions. "¦Stupid

The Crisis Comment On"¦

Typhoid: Its Not Sanctions. "¦Stupid

Over the past few weeks, the media has been awash with reports of the typhoid outbreak which is causing panic in Zimbabwe, particularly in the nation's capital. A staggering 1, 500 people are reported as having been affected or infected so far, particularly in the high density suburb of Kuwadzana. While Experts and health professionals have blamed poor sanitation and water shortages for the typhoid outbreak and other diarrheal diseases, other explanations have also been posited for the outbreak.

Harare Province Spokesperson for ZANU PF, Claudius Mutero posited, what has easily become ZANU PF's answer to everything and explanation for anything:

'The sanctions induced typhoid does not discriminate whether one is MDC-T or ZANU PF"¦. We suspect biological warfare by imperialists who are using nationals worldwide as conduits"¦'.

While it would be fair to beg for further explanations from the ZANU PF spokesperson on this interesting theory, we are however more inclined to listen to the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) who in a statement on the 29th of January 2012 blamed poor service delivery for the outbreak. ZADHR pointed out that the conditions that caused cholera are the same as the ones causing typhoid.

In 2008, when the cholera outbreak claimed more than 3,000 lives and affected more than 60,000 people, government chose to address the outbreak in isolation and neglected to solve the root cause of the cholera problem which is poor sanitation and limited water supply. Another dimension is added by the report of the Fact-Finding Mission to Zimbabwe to assess the Scope and Impact of Operation Murambatsvina by the United Nations (UN) Special Envoy on Human Settlements Issues in Zimbabwe Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka (2005), which indicated that 30% of the people displaced during Operation Murambatsvina found refuge with relatives and friends leading to overcrowding and possibilities of 'higher propagation of communicable diseases'.

Now in spite of the interesting theory posited by the ZANU PF spokesperson for Harare, there is relief from the facts that, (1) he is the spokesperson for ZANU PF and not the City of Harare , and (2) that at least some of the technocrats running the City of Harare know what the real problem is. What is a bit disturbing is their solution to the water and sanitation challenge that is credited with causing the outbreak. In The Herald of 1 February 2012, the Town Clerk of Harare, Dr. Tendai Mahachi said,

'We are going to starve the "dale dales" (low density suburbs) because we feel people there can afford to buy water.'

The town Clerk's statement assumes a lot, and we know that assumptions are problematic. It is a common sense notion that perhaps is lost on the good Dr. Mahachi that digging a hole to fill another hole, still leaves you with a hole. Limiting water supply to some areas will not solve the problems but will simply shift the problem from one area to the other. Suffice to say that some so called 'dale dales' including Greendale, Eastlea, Malborough and some parts of Mabelreign are already facing acute water shortages, and maybe bombs waiting to explode. The Town Clerk's improvised solution is tantamount to the insertion of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in an already explosive environment, instead of sending in a bomb squad to disarm the existing bombs.

According to the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), Harare requires more than 1,400 megalitres of water a day yet the city council supplies 500- 600 megalitres, 40- 50 % of which is lost through leakages. These leakages are as a result of failure by council to service and replace equipment. How about the city of Harare, focusing on stemming the leaks, for an idea?

Stemming the leaks would increase water supply, assisting to deal with the causes of typhoid on one hand and actually ensuring that people pay for a service that they actually receive. The CHRA also accuses the city council of exacerbating the outbreak of Typhoid by disconnecting water supplies particularly in Kuwadzana and Dzivarasekwa leading to reliance and over crowding on unprotected water sources by the residents. A research carried out by CHRA in January 2012 revealed that 1 in every 4 households in Kuwadzana and Dzivarasekwa has no running water. Council is forcing residents to pay for water, which they seldom have.

The way forward according to ZADHR, is that;

"access to proper sanitation, supply of clean running water, which assists in preventing the outbreak of epidemic diseases must be treated as urgent priorities by the government and the city council".

In addition, the director of CHRA, Mr. Mfundo Mlilo in an interview with The Catalyst, suggests that

'The issue is about government insincerity and misdirected effort. The government needs to produce a 5- 10 year plan to address the water problems in the country. '

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition agrees with the actions suggested above, and further believes that the government has an obligation to provide adequate and uncontaminated water to its citizens. Zimbabwe acceded to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR)) in 1991 and is a state signatory to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) (1981). By signing the said instruments, government pledged to respect, protect and fulfill the social, economic and cultural rights of its citizens. Under Article 2 of the ICESCR, the right to an adequate standard of living is upheld. The provision of a sanitized environment and clean water will ultimately result in the fulfillment of that right. The government should accept that the typhoid problem is not as a result of 'a biological warfare' and targeted sanctions but is as a result of government's failure to provide its citizens with basic social amenities.

In response to the outbreak, the city council and government should immediately;

  1. Seal untreated boreholes
  2. Re- connect water supplies to citizens particularly in the affected communities
  3. Find ways to ensure that refuse collection is consistent, sewers are properly treated and water supply to all communities improves.

The government should also ensure that efforts are made towards the progressive realization of second-generation rights, which are key in a democratic developmental state.

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