MUTARE – Serious shortcomings on the part of Mutare City Council in refuse collection and provision of water to some parts of the eastern border city could have contributed to the malaria deaths recorded in the previous year.
Last year, 137 malaria deaths were recorded in the whole of Manicaland of which about 45 percent of them were in Mutare alone.
This has forced the city fathers to declare the mountainous city a malaria zone.
Chipinge recorded 23 deaths, followed by Mutasa with 16 and Buhera and Chimanimani with 12 deaths each. Nyanga and Makoni recorded the lowest number of deaths in the province at eight and four, respectively.
Council officials have denied responsibility for the deaths.
Addressing participants at a workshop held in Mutare recently, the municipality’s provincial epidemiology and diseases control officer, Munyaradzi Mukuzunga, blamed the rise in malaria cases on the La Nina-induced incessant rains that hit the country last year.
But residents disagree.
They believe that council should shoulder much of the blame because of its failure to consistently supply water to their homes.
Residents are being forced to dig up shallow wells, ponds and keep water in open containers due to erratic water supplies.
Council has struggled to upgrade water pipes because of perennial financial constraints, resulting in serious water leakages and dry taps.
Dangamvura residents, for example, are resorting to storing water in their homes, thus exposing them to mosquitoes that are breeding at an alarming rate.
Homes have therefore been turned into mosquito breeding grounds, giving residents sleepless nights even during winter.
There are also fears of an outbreak of respiratory diseases as most residents are using mosquito coils to keep the mosquitoes at bay throughout the year.
“We have a problem of mosquitoes throughout the year, including in winter months because of this water crisis that has been going on for years,” Loice Kucherera of Dangamvura said.
Amos Chiketo, a local environmentalist, said while malaria-causing mosquitoes were freshwater pests that usually surface during the rainy season, the same conditions were being recreated in the homes.
“We have open ponds that are emptied half way and refilled every other day and many places where malaria-causing mosquitoes can easily breed from,” Chiketo said.
Council is currently providing tapped water to Dangamvura’s over 38 000 households on a rotational basis.
As a result, residents are digging shallow wells in their yards and small pools to store rainy water.
There is, however, hope that the water woes could end once the city fathers have completed the Chikanga-Dangamvura water project.
In a recent interview, former city engineer Donaldson Nyatoti said the project was 90 percent complete and required $850 000 to complete.
Globally, 400 million new cases of malaria are reported each year.
There are four species that can cause illness —Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale.
However, only the plasmodium falciparum malaria strain is potentially life-threatening.