COMMUNITY-BASED organisations have urged Harare City Council (HCC) to act fast to rehabilitate sewer bursts in the high-density residential suburbs, with some areas going for several days without being attended to amid escalating cholera cases.
Latest statistics by the ministry of Health and Child Care presented in this week’s post-cabinet briefing show that cumulative suspected cholera cases numbered 1 744 as of 26 November, up from 1 259 reported in the previous week.
At 705, Harare recorded the highest cumulative cholera cases, while Chitungwiza, one of the major hotspots, had 163 as of November 16 to 23.
A survey by The NewsHawks has shown that several residential areas, particularly in Kuwadzana 1 and 4 and Chitungwiza have been the hardest hit, with sewer bursts now going for weeks without being attended to.
Sewer puddles are a common site in these areas.
In an interview with The NewsHawks, the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) expressed concern over council workers who are demanding extra charges to fix the sewer bursts, pleading incapacitation.
“When they eventually attend the reports, the council workers are demanding to be paid an average of US$5 by each affected household. Broken down and clogged water and sewerage pipes are leaking, resulting in sewer mixing with underground water and the water pipes also get polluted, resulting in a continuous surge in the affected areas,” HRT said.
“Replacement of underground water and sewerage pipes in the most affected communities should be a top project that can increase the amount of water reaching households and significantly reduce the number of unattended sewer bursts.”
“The City of Harare (CoH) reports that they are losing around 60% of their treated water due to leakages along the water distribution network. That is most unfortunate because they all know what needs to be done, but this is not being prioritised.”
Another community-based organisation, the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), said the pandemic is being caused by the shortage of clean water, which has hit both rural and urban areas.
“Many urban communities including Harare and some rural communities have gone for weeks and months without adequate water supply in a situation that has now declined over several years, leaving people vulnerable to diseases like cholera,” said Itai Rusike, CWGH executive director.
“Our assessments indicated that since the unprecedented cholera outbreak of 2008-2009, Harare has continued to have poor sanitation, overcrowding (poor living conditions), erratic potable water supplies of questionable quality; and these conditions continue to fuel the unknown killer communicable infections which used to be rare in the country. People in this situation are facing a public health crisis of considerable proportions.”
“We hope that the public health community, and the ministry of Health and Child Care, will respond to this not only with an emergency response to cholera, but with a public health response and measures to rescue our public health to rescue our public health system, especially our primary healthcare services.”