THAT a fresh outbreak of typhoid and other waterborne diseases is looming in Harare is mind-boggling as it raises fears the spate could blow out of proportion given the state of unpreparedness of both the Harare City Council and government.
It is regrettable that the city council is losing its battle with waterborne diseases after a renewed outbreak was reported in Mbare’s Matapi Flats over the weekend. What is even sad is the fact that the latest outbreak, according to council, is blamed on water shortages, raw sewer spillages and uncollected garbage in the capital city’s most populous high-density suburb.
One wonders how the local authority and the Health and Child Care ministry have consistently failed to control typhoid, cholera and other related waterborne diseases in the capital and other urban set-ups as they are considered “historical” given they are largely preventable.
We believe if there was political will on the part of government, there would not be cases of outbreak anywhere in the country today. We agree that given the reported cases of typhoid, of two deaths and over 132 cases, they represent a clear failure on the part of Health minister David Parirenyatwa to uphold the ministry’s constitutional obligations.
The key drivers of the outbreak of typhoid are always known and have been repeatedly highlighted in the past years. These include the erratic supplies of clean water in most urban communities, the supply of contaminated water, and failure to attend to the leaking of raw sewage into the environment.
It is given that cholera or typhoid epidemics flourish in areas that lack clean water and have no proper sanitation. Hence, it is the government’s responsibility to formulate and implement short-term and long-term solutions to the endless problems of lack of clean water and adequate sanitation.
Clearly, recurrent typhoid outbreaks should be understood in terms of total failure by Parirenyatwa to resolutely deal with a known problem. This is so because the dreary nature of the epidemics of typhoid and other waterborne diseases is a result of failure on the part of government and council to plan adequately and anticipate the outbreak of such diseases every season.
It is a fact that Harare’s old sewerage reticulation system was installed by the Rhodesian government over 50 years ago, but has not been expanded or upgraded by successive council executives over the years.
Could there be any reason why council has failed to expand in proportion to the size of its growing population? Citizens are tired of excuse after excuse ranging from central government interference to lack of resources. They demand service delivery. Government and council should devise a way of working together that will be beneficial to the ratepayers rather than for citizens to be stalked with treatable diseases each rainy season.
We also would like to warn the government against interfering in local governance such that the local authorities would fail to deliver according to their mandate. The citizenry would demand service delivery regarding piling garbage as well as lack of running water, some of the biggest threats to health in Harare, and will hold these office bearers to account when the time comes.
The opposition parties should also be warned that failure to deliver is what led to the Zanu PF regime to lose control of all urban centres, and complacency could cost them at the forthcoming elections.We have no doubt that the self-destructive tendency will haunt both the government and the local authorities.