Paidamoyo Chipunza and Yeukai Karengezeka
Providing adequate safe water and improving sanitation is key to ending recurrent outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases that include typhoid, cholera and common diarrhoea in Harare’s western suburbs.
Harare has for years been struggling to end diarrhoeal outbreaks, particularly in Glen View and Budiriro which are said to be the lowest points of the city.
As a result, waste and pollutants from other areas flow to this area, resulting in contamination of underground water, leading to recurrent outbreaks of the diarrhoeal diseases.
It is thought that the contractor who did the initial layout of water and sewer reticulation systems did a shoddy job back in the 1980s, resulting in frequent pipe bursts.
Another school of thought says since Glen View is close to Churu Farm, housing nearly 4 000 squatter settlers relying largely on pit latrines, the possibility of contamination of underground water through seepage cannot be ruled out.
Harare’s chief planner Mr Samuel Nyabeze ruled out the last assertion, arguing that Glen View and Churu Farm were two different places.
“Glen View is a formal settlement while the latter is an informal settlement invaded by different individuals and cooperatives,” he said.
“The cause of recurrent water-borne disease outbreaks in Glen View is really an issue of water and sewer infrastructure.”
Mr Nyabeze said the continuous contamination of borehole water by sewage in the area was because of its geographical set up.
“Boreholes in Glen View and Budiriro are repeatedly contaminated with sewage because they are at the lowest point of Harare, according to the geographical set up,” he said.
Mr Nyabeze said as a result, all industrial waste came to this area and possibility of contamination of underground water through seepage was high.
Responding to concerns on poor solid waste disposal, cited by public health experts as one of the major causes of contamination of drinking water, the city’s works director Engineer Zvenyika Chawatama said:
“We have been carrying out our duty in terms of waste disposal in areas that include Glen View.
“However, efforts to urgently attend to bursts are being hampered by lack of adequate equipment and unavailability of fuel.”
Disease and epidemiology control director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Portia Manangazira said while Government rolled out cholera and typhoid vaccines last year to protect residents against water-borne diseases, improving the city’s water and sanitation remained critical.
“The local authorities should, therefore, know better and be compliant to provisions of the Public Health Act which mandates them to provide adequate safe water and sanitation to all residents in the cities or towns,” she said.
“This is the golden standard — primary prevention — for prevention of these diseases, vaccines being secondary and outbreak response being tertiary level and much less effective with the regrettable loss of lives we have witnessed in Harare.”
Harare City Council has of late been recording sporadic cases of suspected typhoid in Glen View.
The city’s health director Dr Prosper Chonzi said all recorded suspected patients were never vaccinated against either cholera or typhoid.
About 60 percent of the targeted population received vaccination against typhoid.
Most suburbs in Harare and surrounding towns continue to experience intermittent water supplies, forcing residents to rely on boreholes, which are in some cases contaminated, shallow wells and open water sources.
In addition, most of the sewer and water infrastructure is old and now characterised by bursts, some of which take time before they are attended to, leaving room for contamination of drinking water.