Residents dread cholera menace as garbage remains uncollected
IT is not yet rush hour along the main road to Harare’s Warren Park suburb, but many motorists are getting impatient as congestion builds up, slowing down the flow of traffic.
There is no broken down vehicle or potholes the size of earthquake craters slowing down motorists, but a pile of trash overlapping into the road has become the new barrier which has narrowed the road.
This is Harare, Zimbabwe’s metropolitan city where some residents have to play hop, skip and jump over burst sewer pipes or endure the pungent smell of uncollected refuse by the roadside.
As the motorists branch into the various streets to avoid the congestion, the situation shifts from bad to worse as more rubbish dumps emerge.
The onset of the rainy season has made the situation worse in a city where some residents have gone for weeks or months without seeing running water. A public health hazard is looming — yet the local authority says everything is under control.
Already, one out of the 124 community boreholes condemned for having contaminated water is in Warren Park D suburb, and residents fear that the situation may worsen.
Residents say this puts Warren Park and other high-density areas at risk of waterborne diseases.
A typhoid and diarrhoea outbreak looms in the city. Hundreds of Harare residents have been diagnosed with either of the two, setting a ticking time bomb for the local authority, which says it is striving to become a world-class city in two years’ time.
Harare, once known as the Sunshine City, has now turned into an eyesore as the capital city continues to be a battlefield for perennial turf wars between the opposition-led local authority and the Zanu PF government.
A proposed plan by a private contractor to collect trash as throughput for a waste-to-energy plant in Pomona has been stalled as haggling over the term sheets of the contract rages on.
Ratepayers and residents have paid the price for this attrition.
The signs are not encouraging and the situation in Warren Park is just a reflection of how high-density suburbs in Harare have battled to deal with primitive medieval diseases in the past few months.
“We have survived these diseases by the grace of God,” says Martha Diza a 64-year-old who has just emptied her two bins at the illegal rubbish dump situated a few yards away from her house.
She adds that the collection of refuse by council is so erratic, leaving residents with no option but to dump in open spaces.
“There was collection once in December and once in January, but they have not collected yet this month (February). So the challenge is that people end up dumping near the council bar and clogging the pathway that was once there or open spaces near the new stands, because it is better to get rid of garbage from our households and put it to those spaces where there are no habitants,” she says.
These complaints explain why illegal rubbish dumps are mushrooming within the high-density suburb, but a schedule obtained by The NewsHawks shows the local authority has failed to adhere to its own refuse-collection programme.
News of the detection of cholera cases in Chegutu evokes scary memories of devastating outbreaks which killed over 4 000 people in 2008. Now the deteriorating water and sanitation situation in the capital city, coupled with a population increase, posed serious challenges.
Harare City Council epidemiology and disease control officer Dr Michael Vere says the city is on top of the situation.
“As for watery diarrhoea, currently the city is below the outbreak thresholds. For this week we recorded 193 cases compared to 230 cases last week, which is a 16% decrease in the number of watery diarrhoea cases recorded. The highest number of diarrhoea cases were from the clinic called Hopley which had 19 cases. Some of these cases were tested and there was no cholera that was detected,” he said.
“The other enteric disease that we are battling is typhoid. Since the 17th of October 2022, we now have 145 cases in total, with 60 of those cases from Glen Norah suburb. 28 of those cases are confirmed cases while the rest are suspected cases. Of the 28 confirmed cases, 18 are from Glen Norah suburb, so this is the situation in terms of watery diarrhoea and typhoid.
“The typhoid situation is fairly under control as we have witnessed recently the number of cases being recorded every week is gradually going down.”
In the central business district, barely a few metres from Town House where councillors and the mayor constantly meet, the city centre is characterised by rubbish dumps, notably at the Rezende and Copacabana bus termini.
Vere says the healthcare workers who dealt with the previous cholera pandemic have since left the country and there is a need to conduct refresher courses for the new crop of carers that have joined the City Health Department.
“We also want to do refresher training for our staff as we know that it is now quite some time since we last experienced a cholera outbreak and because of the movement of staff out of the country for greener pastures most of the staff we have now are new. These obviously require refresher training on the management of diseases like cholera and even the typhoid, so this is still pending; we are planning to do that,” said Vere.
As the battle between the local authority and central government rages, a time bomb is ticking and residents will bear the brunt of political expedience.