In the wake of a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe that has already claimed the lives of over 100 people and infected thousands across the country, residents of Harare have issued a five-day ultimatum demanding the local authority to urgently address the water shortages plaguing several high-density suburbs.
According to the latest situational report from the Ministry of Health, Manicaland has recorded the highest number of confirmed cholera cases at 616, followed by Matabeleland South with 133 cases, and Harare with 125 cases.
In an effort to combat the spread of the disease, residents, represented by lawyers Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Kelvin Kabaya from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), have called for the restoration of adequate water supplies.
The residents expressed concerns that the lack of running water puts them at a higher risk of contracting cholera.
“Through the letter, Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya complained that residents living in these suburbs have been experiencing severe problems in accessing running and potable water from their taps and had been forced to resort to fetching water for consumption and daily use from shallow wells and do not know whether the water from the underground wells is safe for consumption or not,” partly reads a statement issued by ZLHR.
The residents have demanded that the City of Harare provide them with the local authority’s water policy and a comprehensive plan to rectify the recurring water shortages in the city.
Failure to comply with these demands within the stipulated time frame would leave the residents with no choice but to take legal action to seek appropriate relief through the court system, the lawyers have warned.
Harare was previously a hotspot during the devastating cholera outbreak in 2008, which resulted in the loss of over 4,000 lives and affected approximately 100,000 people.
Council’s epidemiology and disease control officer, Michael Vere, commented on the ongoing water challenges faced by residents, stating that despite these difficulties, progress is being made in cholera awareness and prevention campaigns.
“The issue of water is outside our mandate but I understand there are challenges in accessing chemicals for water treatment. As the city health department, we are making efforts to treat water at nearby boreholes in affected areas so that people can have access to clean and safe water,” Vere said.
“We are also intensifying health promotion activities, doing door-to-door campaigns. We are helping in supplying water bowsers daily to places like Southlands, Stoneridge and Hopley where we give daily supplies,” Vere told NewsDay.
Cholera is an acute waterborne diarrheal disease, which can be prevented through access to safe water, sanitation facilities, and practicing proper hygiene. However, if left untreated, it can lead to death within a matter of hours.
The current cholera outbreak initially began in Buhera district, located in Manicaland province. Since then, the outbreak has spread to numerous areas across the country.
These include Buhera, Chegutu, Chikomba, Chimanimani, Chipinge, Chitungwiza, Chiredzi, Harare, Gokwe North, Marondera, Mazowe, Shamva, Mutare, Murehwa, Mwenezi, Seke, and Wedza.