Stop politicking, tackle cholera crisis head-on

At the time of writing this article, the death toll from the cholera outbreak had reached 49, with over 6 000 suspected cases being handled at treatment centres in the country, while over 10 000 people have been attended to at various screening centres to check for possible infection.

These are the statistics that were presented by Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo to Parliament on Tuesday.

Mr Speaker Sir, it is unfortunate that so many people have died and are being affected by a disease that many thought now belonged to the history books.

The response by Government and other stakeholders is commendable, but it is important that issues at the core of the outbreak of cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases be addressed.

Mr Speaker Sir, the cholera outbreak we are experiencing now is the second in 10 years following one that claimed over 4 000 lives between 2008 and 2009.

In between that time and now various areas across the country have experienced outbreaks of typhoid.

This is a cause for concern Mr Speaker Sir and begs the question of what the authorities should do to stem the seemingly recurring outbreaks.

One of the things that most local authorities have neglected or have failed to prioritise is investment in water and waste management in general.

It is common to see piles of garbage and flowing sewage in most streets in residential areas.

Mr Speaker Sir, I remember one incident when we had a burst sewer at my place of residence and after informing the people responsible for fixing the pipes, they said they did not have fuel and would only come if we provided them with the fuel.

They only came after I insisted on knowing whether this was now the council policy but the point is, Mr Speaker Sir, what happens to folk that might not be as knowledgeable about their rights?

What is needed therefore Mr Speaker Sir is to ensure that local authorities capacitate their departments that deal with water and sewer reticulation so that they can respond to calls by residents.

It is commendable that Government has suspended purchase of vehicles for ministers and parliamentarians to deal with the outbreak and we believe this should go down to all public institutions.

Meanwhile, the Government has banned vending at undesignated places and our hope is that this will be maintained to ensure cleanliness in the cities.

This does not mean that we don’t want vending but it should simply be done in an orderly manner not as haphazardly as it had become.

Mr Speaker Sir what is important is to ensure that the local authorities provide amenities that are needed at the various places they have designated for vending.

Provision of water and ablution facilities should be expedited lest we create other health hazards by dumping the vendors at places that have not been designed to cater for large numbers of people who throng those places.

Mr Speaker Sir, the rainy season is fast approaching so these things should be done with the urgency they deserve.

It is common cause that diarrhoeal diseases thrive in wet conditions so we should not be caught napping when the rains arrive.

The other long term measure that Government and local authorities should deal with is the provision of basic amenities in informal settlements that have sprouted in most urban centres.

Most if not all of these settlements are a ticking time bomb for outbreaks of diseases because they lack the requisite infrastructure like water and sewer reticulation.

Some of these settlements were constructed on top of water and sewer pipes and the longer it takes for them to be regularised the more the likelihood of having other outbreaks like the one we are currently experiencing.

It is therefore important that a lasting solution is found to these informal settlements Mr Speaker Sir.

We also hope that Government expedites the construction of Kunzvi Dam to solve the water shortages that have affected Harare and its satellite towns of Chitungwiza, Norton and Ruwa as a long term solution to the water woes that have affected the metropolitan province for some time now.

The absence of reliable water supply is at the root cause of these outbreaks and unless that issue is resolved we are likely to live with the danger of the current scenario happening again.

The construction of the dam should be one of the top priorities of Government in that not only will it provide a lasting solution to the water problems of Harare Metropolitan province it also has the potential to create other benefits downstream especially irrigation.

Like has been earlier alluded to, cholera is a disease that we should not be grappling with in this era and other interventions like vaccination should now be explored seriously.

The statistics presented by Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo showed that 21 percent of those affected are children while an equal proportion of fatalities are also of children below five years.

It is therefore important that this vulnerable group be vaccinated as part of mechanisms to prevent deaths.

It is sad, Mr Speaker Sir, that an eight month old baby is among the victims of the disease.

In conclusion, Mr Speaker Sir, it is in everyone’s interest that the outbreak be contained and every one of us has a role to play.

It is not time for politicking or scoring cheap political points, but to simply ensure that we deal with cholera once and for all.

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