HARARE City Council (HCC) director for health, Prosper Chonzi, pictured, has warned that the capital is at risk of much bigger and deadlier outbreaks of cholera and typhoid due to uncollected refuse and burst sewer pipes.
Chonzi, who is also the city’s acting Town Clerk, said the diseases could cause more deaths, piling pressure on already stretched funeral parlours.
This comes as the HCC has been taking a lot of flak over poor service delivery.
Speaking during a Daily News webinar yesterday, Chonzi said a cholera outbreak would weigh heavily on funeral parlours already battling to handle Covid-19 deaths.
“Owing to the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19, we have not been collecting refuse, providing water and attending to burst sewer pipes in and around the city and any time we may have an outbreak of cholera or typhoid in addition to the Covid-19 pandemic and this will have a significant impact on funeral companies,” Chonzi said. “The government has now allowed us to offer some of our mortuary facilities on account of the strain on funeral companies’ mortuaries.”
Since the beginning of the year, there has been a hive of activity at funeral companies, with undertakers queueing at cemeteries to bury Covid-19 victims amid fears that mortuary space could also run out. This comes as the country’s confirmed cases cumulatively are now at 34 864, with 1 364 deaths.
Chonzi said Harare was running short of burial space.
“The City of Harare is running short of burial space, with most cemeteries including Warren Hills almost full. We need to think broadly including the need to consider cremation or vertical burials,” he said.
His views were backed by deputy Health minister, John Mangwiro, who said the country should engage in discourse on the matter.
“It is an interesting suggestion that we should be able to discuss as a country. The issue of vertical burials and cremation should be seen as a way to solve the crisis although we, as a conservative country have not been doing it,” Mangwiro said.
This was after Zimbabwe Association of Funeral Assurers’ Solomon Chikanda had advised that the city fathers needed to avail new graveyards.
“We pray that the process of acquiring burial orders be hassle-free and less cumbersome. Our undertakers are undoubtedly key frontline workers of the health services value chain hence we pray that they may be prioritised in Covid-19 vaccinations,” Chikanda said, adding that the sector should also be exempted from paying duty on imported Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
On his part, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, in a speech read on his behalf by his spokesperson, Clive Mpambela, said the government was open to dialogue with funeral companies on how to address challenges faced by the sector.
“As a way forward, the ministry proposes the following; detailed submission on the challenges faced by the sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic and proposed solutions; continuous stakeholder dialogue with a view to coming up with proposed solutions,” Ncube said.
The minister said in a bid to cushion the insurance and pensions sector in general, which includes the funeral sector, the government had allowed the writing of insurance business in foreign currency “as this will avail the much needed foreign currency to the sector and thereby boost its performance”.
“There is a need to review the stimulus package that I announced last year as we assist the funeral assurers in their operations.”
“Legislative reforms are also in progress through the revision of all insurance and pensions’ legislation to address key issues such as good corporate governance, protection of policyholder interest and strategies to prevent institutions from failing in order to ensure that policy holders do not suffer loss”.
The government’s initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic was first targeted at saving human lives through re-prioritising budget allocations, supported by private sector and development partners’ goodwill, as well as extending support to the rest of the economy through a stimulus package of $18, 2 billion.