Harare ‘ill-equipped to fight cholera’

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Harare Metropolitan News - Paidamoyo Chipunza Se­nior Health Re­porter

THE City of Harare is ill-equipped to re­spond to re­ports of sewer block­ages, with some go­ing for al­most two months with­out be­ing at­tended to, an ac­tivist has said.

This has re­sulted in con­tam­i­na­tion of un­der­ground wa­ter with cholera bac­te­ria in Budiriro and Glen View high-den­sity sub­urbs in Septem­ber, in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Harare Res­i­dents Trust (HRT) have re­vealed.

Speak­ing at the Com­mu­nity Work­ing Group on Health’s (CWGH) 25th an­nual con­fer­ence held in Harare yes­ter­day, HRT di­rec­tor Mr Pre­cious Shumba said the work­ers did not have pro­tec­tive cloth­ing such as gloves and work suits when at­tend­ing to the block­ages.

He said they did not have enough sewer rods to at­tend to block­ages within the stip­u­lated turn­around time.

Mr Shumba said the work­ers fur­ther claimed that they had not been vac­ci­nated against di­ar­rhoeal dis­eases as was the norm.

In ad­di­tion, he said they had not been paid their salaries for al­most six months pre­ced­ing the first cholera case.

“It seemed the work­ers took a lack­adaisi­cal ap­proach in re­spond­ing to the block­ages be­cause they were ill-equipped to ef­fec­tively dis­charge their du­ties. Cou­pled with dis­gruntle­ment over de­layed pay­ment of their salaries, the work­ers’ re­sponse to re­ported block­ages took longer re­sult­ing in con­tam­i­na­tion of un­der­ground wa­ter, which later led to a cholera out­break,” said Mr Shumba.

He said ac­cord­ing to the work­ers, vac­ci­na­tion was only done at Beatrice Road In­fec­tious Dis­eases Hos­pi­tal the first week­end af­ter the first cholera case was re­ported on Septem­ber 6.

Mr Shumba fur­ther re­vealed that work­suits were also bought well af­ter the first case of cholera was re­ported.

“They told us that the (city) au­thor­i­ties only started vis­it­ing them to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate their griev­ances well af­ter the out­break had started, rais­ing ques­tions on the au­thor­i­ties’ ap­proach to solv­ing key drivers of cholera,” said Mr Shumba.

Speak­ing at the same oc­ca­sion, Mrs Syn­odia Shekede, a res­i­dent of Glen View sub­urb, said some of th­ese key drivers were yet to be ad­dressed.

“Sewer block­ages still go for days with­out be­ing at­tended to, the sup­ply of tap wa­ter sup­ply is still er­ratic and some peo­ple are still drink­ing wa­ter from un­pro­tected wells,” said Mrs Shekede.

Asked about wa­ter tanks, she said some of them had never been filled ever since they were erected.

“We now fear an in­crease in (cholera) cases be­cause of the rains if th­ese drivers re­main un­ad­dressed,” she said.

Mrs Shekede at­trib­uted re­peated sewer block­ages to houses that have been con­structed on in­fill stands that were above sewer lines.

No im­me­di­ate com­ment could be ob­tained from city au­thor­i­ties as they did not at­tend the con­fer­ence de­spite in­vi­ta­tion be­ing sent to them.

The cholera out­break, which started on Septem­ber 6 this year, has so far claimed at least 54 lives and left over 7 000 oth­ers re­quir­ing treat­ment. Res­i­dents of Budiriro and Glen View were the worst af­fected.

Gov­ern­ment re­cently rolled out a cholera vac­cine as a short­term mea­sure to mit­i­gate con­tin­ued out­breaks in vul­ner­a­ble sub­urbs such as Glen View and Budiriro.

Mr Shumba

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