Zimbabwe: Cholera disaster engulfs city, as government dithers

The Harare residents remain in an outright disaster of the cholera scourge which threaten to engulf the whole city and beyond.

The CHRA members who thronged the streets of Budiriro on the 16th of November 2008 in protest of the epidemic maintain that the defacto government is responsible for the current cholera outbreaks, deaths and general suffering of the residents. The Residents maintain their demand that the management of the Harare city water supply be returned to the city council while ZINWA concentrate on bulk water production. The residents of Harare have vowed to continue with their protests in their various wards. Residents have vowed that; as long as there is still raw sewage flowing in the streets of Budiriro, Glenview, Highfields, Dzivarasekwa and other Harare suburbs, as long as there are no adequate supplies of clean water; residents will continue to conduct mass protests in every affected suburb of Harare.

The root cause of the cholera scourge is the failure of ZINWA to effectively manage the sewerage systems in the City of Harare as well as its failure to provide adequate and clean water to residents. The acute water shortages that have rocked Harare's suburbs have made it almost impossible for residents to maintain hygienic living environs; a situation that has left residents exposed to cholera infections. ZINWA was already struggling with a tight budget and with a history of periodic failures to remunerate its own staff when it took over the administration of water and sewer services from the City of Harare. The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) and residents in general warned of an impending disaster with water and sewer management under the beleaguered water utility. Other institutions and people who advised the Governement to reverse the ZINWA takeover decision include the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). However the Cabinet remained arrogant and adamant that this decision would not be reversed despite the clear indications that sooner rather than later, the residents would be suffering from cholera.

CHRA made a micro survey of the frequency of water supplies in the suburbs of Harare. Below is a table (Figure 1) which shows some of Harare's residential areas and their water supply patterns:

Figure 1

Area Water supply frequency

Mabvuku Tafara Most parts of the suburbs have had no tap water since 2006

Ruwa Receives water once (4 to 5 hours on a single day) per month. The water is usually available during the late night hours.

Glen Lorne Most parts have been without water for the past 8 months, others receive it for less than a day in a month.

Masasa Park Receives water once (4 to 5 hours ) per month

Greendale Without water for the past 4 months, some parts now receiving water for less than 5 hours per week.

Budiriro Receiving visibly unclean water for less than 10 hours per week.

Dzivarasekwa Usually no supplies during weekends but the water is not clean and has dirt particles that can be seen by the naked eye.

Hatfield Two to three days in every week

Chisipite Jan-April 2008 (6 hrs a month), May- Sept 2008 (No supplies), Oct to date (an average of 4 hrs a month).

Kuwadzana Supplies are available for an average of three days per week

Glen View Visibly unclean water for less than 10 hours per week. Glen view went for more than three consecutive weeks without supplies in October.

Glen Norah Two times a week (supplies are usually five hours long)

Warren Park Receives water for an average of 2 days per week; between 0100 and 0300hrs) This has been going on for the past Two months. The little water that is available is visibly unclean.

Avenues and the city center

ZINWA has continued to glide in the highway of chronic failure despite the money, fuel and vehicles channeled to the parastatal by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and this has put out the light at the end of the tunnel for residents. The affected areas remain without tap (clean) water amid the cholera pandemic engulfing the whole city and country. Meanwhile, cholera cases have also been reported in Gweru, Beitbridge (where the affected Zimbabweans cross the boarder to seek medical attention in Messina, South Africa) and other areas throughout the country. The "government" has refused to declare the cholera pandemic a national disaster when it is clear that the country has very little or no capacity to deal with the pandemic. Instead, the defacto government, through the state media, has been misleading the nation and the world with censored statistics on cholera. CHRA warns the "Governement" that the cholera incidence is not a matter for propaganda but an outright national disaster that needs urgent and diligent attention!

CHRA stands by the cholera victims and will unremittingly push for the return of water and sewer management to the City of Harare. CHRA will continue to monitor the cholera and water situation. The Association is currently mobilising and distributing water treatment tablets, protective clothing and other things that could be of assistance to the victims of this crisis.