The country is at risk of major disease outbreaks because of serious violations of the Public Health Act, a Health ministry official has said.
Epidemiology and disease control director, Portia Manangazira said the violations of the Act posed a major threat to the health of the nation and called for immediate action to be taken to avoid disease outbreaks.
“We began well as a country because if you read the Public Health Act, which was drafted in 1924, it was done so well, but it is now being violated in a number of ways to the point that if we don’t act now, we will completely lose it,” she said while addressing a Health Journalists’ Association of Zimbabwe (HeJAZ) workshop in Harare yesterday.
The Public Health Act makes it mandatory for milk to be pasteurised, but it is now being sold on street corners directly from cows.
The Act also clearly states that sewage should treated before being discharged, but councils were failing to adhere to the stipulation, creating a breeding ground for typhoid and cholera.
Manangazira said health inspectors were being blocked from confiscating meat products, which do not meet laid-down requirements, as some of the butcheries were owned by politically-connected people.
“There are premises that cannot be inspected because they belongs to a chef. The Act is clear how meat is supposed to be handled, where one slaughters their beasts and transported, but contaminated meat can be allowed to be transported in a dirty vehicle because it belongs to a chef,” she said.
Manangazira said lack of resources and weak health systems resulted in the failure to deal with outbreaks.
Local authorities were mostly to blame for violating the Public Health Act through their failure to treat sewage or to deal with rampant sewer pipe bursts which were at the centre of a cholera outbreak that ravaged the country in 2007.
Norman Nyazema, a pharmacologist, concurred, saying the failure to implement the Public Health Act showed clear lack of rule of law in the country.
“We always read about the lack of the rule of law, which is politicised. You are quick to point out to violence, but neglect these issues of public health. This is also lack of rule of law that other premises are not searched, that meat can be smuggled across our borders, violating our laws,” he said.