Typhoid fears grip Chitungwiza

by Byron Adonis Mutingwende

Reports about people being treated with typhoid symptoms have sent shivers among Chitungwiza residents who feel their municipality is too ill-equipped to deal with the disease in the event of an outbreak.

Service delivery is virtually at standstill in this populous city of over 1,5 million residents. Zanu (PF) and the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai constantly trade accusations and counter accusations of running down the town.

At Zengeza 3 Shopping Centre just adjacent to the Chitungwiza Municipality headquarters, heaps of uncollected garbage exude a pungent smell that unsettles shoppers at the nearby OK Supermarket.

Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo refused to implement recommendations by the MDC-T to fire its councillors accused of corruption in 2009.

He instead tried in vain to protect the now expelled and embattled former Town Clerk, Godfrey Tanyayiwa, who is facing corruption charges.

A commission appointed by Chombo to run the Chitungwiza affairs has done nothing to bring positive change. “We tried our level best with the support from the German Agro Action to engage youths to clear blocked drains and cut tall grass in the suburbs. The pipes are archaic and they continue to burst, making the task to contain burst sewer pipes almost impossible. ‘‘The drainage and sewer systems simply need replacement. The challenge facing the municipality is lack of money to buy the pipes and water treatment chemicals to purify water,” said Wendy Chiriri, the Councillor for Ward 23.

Suspended councillor and former Deputy Mayor, Rangarirai Mutingwende, however puts the blame on council bosses whom he accused of awarding each other hefty packages and allowances at the expense of service delivery. “The reports of the typhoid cases are just a tip of the iceberg. Many residents here complain of stomach problems that are associated with dysentery. Refuse trucks take ages to collect garbage and this is a good breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria.

‘‘We call on health personnel to increase their programmes of educating the community on hygiene so as to keep them abreast with preventive measures. Partners like UNICEF which provided iodine to purify drinking water during the 2008-09 outbreak will be handy if they provide early assistance,” said Joana Mafukidze, a community health worker based in Chitungwiza.

“We have lost confidence in the political leadership to bring a lasting solution to the problems bedevilling Chitungwiza. There is no law criminalising industrialists who discharge raw effluent into major rivers like Mukuvisi and Manyame.

‘‘In the end councils pay more money to purify the water than it spends in pumping it. This explains the perennial water shortages in Harare and Chitungwiza,” said Civil Engineer Tarashana Mufunda, a Chitungwiza resident.

Cooked and raw food continues to be sold in the open and with prevailing water cuts, residents fear waterborne diseases will easily break out in Chitungwiza.

At shopping centres such as Zengeza 2, Zengeza 4, Unit J and Huruyadzo in St Marys, vendors openly sell meat and fish in dusty and unprotected conditions.