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Typhoid: council must play ball


Harare City Council yesterday cracked down on open-market fish vendors in and around Harare ostensibly to control the outbreak of typhoid which has so far affected about 900 residents.

The move, part of a cocktail of measures to contain the spread of typhoid, follows reports that the disease has spread to Chitungwiza and Epworth among other areas. Kuwadzana, Dzivarasekwa, Budiriro, Warren Park and Kambuzuma have so far been the worst hit areas.

Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi told reporters they had established that fish from dams around Harare carried the infection. By yesterday police had been roped in to assist, and tables were turned upside down at Mereki shopping centre in Warren Park.

Surprisingly though, it was business as usual as vendors sold their fish and food at other spots around the capital. It is commendable the council has roped in other stakeholders — the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and police — because the fight against typhoid cannot be a lone battle for the local authority as it needs a multi-pronged attack that is sustained over time.

It is paramount that the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and council work together to ensure the disease is prevented and that every citizen’s right to the highest attainable state of physical wellbeing is respected.

Regrettably, government and council underestimated the impact of poor service delivery in Harare, and indeed the whole country.

Council health services director Prosper Chonzi was quoted in the Press last week as saying: “We can have cholera anytime. The environment is conducive for the outbreak. We need to be proactive and play our part. I can bet my last dollar there is typhoid in Chitungwiza and Epworth. The hygienic levels there are no good.”

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights among other concerned stakeholders last week also warned stakeholders need to do more to stem the situation before the cholera outbreak anytime soon.

Indeed, the late response by council and government is cause for concern for people are aware that since the cholera outbreak in 2008 service delivery in high-density suburbs has not improved as conditions that led to the cholera outbreak are the same as those that favour outbreaks of typhoid now.

Water supplies are still irregular or altogether absent in most high-density suburbs, burst sewerage pipes continue to be left unattended and fish and meat continue to be sold at open spaces called “‘peoples’ markets” in various suburbs in and around Harare.

There is no doubt these factors among others create ideal conditions for diseases to fester and spread to far-flung areas such as Norton, Chitungwiza, and Ruwa to name but a few, whose residents work in the capital.

So, other than cracking down on vendors keen to eke out an honest living, council should provide clean water, provide access to proper sanitation as well as prevent constant outbreaks of epidemic diseases by treating such cases as urgent matters.

The typhoid outbreak is a clear indication the authorities do not have prevention, intervention or curative strategies.

This also points to a manifestation of the absence of co-ordinated environmental health programmes, lack of effective governance at the local level and an absence of political will by those claiming to represent the people’s wishes.

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