|Death toll rises as Cholera fears sweep across the country
By Alex Bell
05 September 2008
At least nine residents of Harare’s Chitungwiza Township are believed to have died this week after a deadly cholera outbreak in the community – with unconfirmed reports claiming the death toll is closer to 20 people.
The outbreak, which is believed to have first struck on Monday, comes after weeks of increasing numbers of cases of serious diarrhoea reports across the city, as a result of a failing clean water system and numerous sewage spills that have contaminated Harare’s water reservoirs.
The deaths have prompted the Combined Harare Residents Association to lash out at the government as well as the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA). The Association has also demanded that the city’s water and sewer reticulation services be handed over to the Harare council, saying ZINWA has failed to address the crisis. In a statement released by the Harare Residents Association on Friday, the group said, ‘the decision by the previous cabinet to authorise ZINWA to take over water and sewer reticulation services from the city councils was not only irresponsible, but also reckless.’
The country’s ongoing political and economic crisis has seen the almost total collapse of infrastructure in the once thriving Zimbabwean cities. The deteriorating water and sewerage systems have led to a number of cholera outbreaks in recent years. ZINWA officials have said the situation is constrained by costs, poor funding and frequent power cuts, which mean that water cannot be properly purified, if at all.
The deaths in Chitungwiza come amid growing concerns that a health crisis in the form of another cholera outbreak is looming in Beitbridge. Residents have reportedly urged ZINWA to address the serious problems of burst sewer pipes, which has seen raw sewage gushing down busy streets and into houses.