HARARE – Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned yesterday that Zimbabwe’s capital was at risk of another cholera outbreak, five years after the pandemic claimed over 4 000 lives.
Tiseke Kasambala, HRW Southern Africa director, said residents’ right to water and sanitation remains a pipe dream, with government accused of neglecting water and sewer infrastructure.
“Harare’s water and sanitation system is broken and the government is not fixing it,” Kasambala said during the launch of a 60-page report titled “Troubled water: Burst pies, contaminated wells and open defecation in Zimbabwe’s capital”.
“Harare’s water and sanitation system has been destroyed by decades of neglect and by on-going mismanagement and corruption,” Kasambala said.
“The 2008 cholera epidemic was a visible catastrophe, but less visible suffering, deaths, and indignity continue.”
Dewa Mavhinga, HRW’s senior researcher, said government’s failure to avail potable water, proper sanitation or safe alternatives has driven the public into using contaminated sources of water and defacating in open spaces.
HRW’s report focuses on 80 characters interviewed from eight high density suburbs namely Warren Park, Mabvuku/Tafara, Mufakose, Dzivaresekwa, Budiriro, Glen View, Glen Norah, and Kuwadzana, including those seriously affected by the recent typhoid outbreaks.
Many of the interviewees complained of intermittent unclear water supplies, disconnections, refuse collection, clogged sewers and diversion of revenue from rates.
The report seeks to advice government on how to avert other looming epidemics.
Precious Shumba, the Harare Residents Trust director, said the city fathers should ring-fence the water account.
“This will guarantee that resources collected are channelled towards improving service,” said Shumba, who claimed that there were nine confirmed cases of typhoid recorded last week.
The Daily News could not independently verify those claims.
Simbarashe Moyo, the Combined Harare Residents Association chairperson, said the report gave a true reflection of the capital’s crisis.
“And this is clear ruralisation of the urban areas and we have to adjust to that naked reality,” Moyo said.
With the rainy season setting in, there are escalating fears that epidemic statistics could soar as has been the case in recent years.
The latest Health ministry weekly disease surveillance report, said 12 367 cases of diarrhoea and three deaths were recorded.
A further 900 clinical dysentery cases including six confirmed deaths were recorded during the same week.