Waiting for dead bodies

Either the fact that cholera killed more than 4 000 Zimbabweans in 2008/9 is simply not enough make the government to want to do something to prevent another outbreak, or the administration is purposely and perversely oblivious of the time bomb dangerously ticking away right under its nose.

How else can one explain the appalling fact that a mere 24 months since the last cholera outbreak we face exactly the same awful conditions that led to that deadly epidemic?

The chief source of cholera two years ago were the hand-dug wells in Harare’s low-income suburbs that desperate residents resorted to for water as the capital’s water supply system failed.

It is these same dig-it-yourself wells, which are unprotected and into which sewage water seeps, that have in recent weeks become the main sources of water for tens of thousands of households in poor townships.

In Harare, which was the epicenter of the last epidemic, as well as in other cities and towns it has become normal to go with dry taps for days or even weeks on end. The sight of women and children balancing buckets and other types of containers on their heads trooping to the nearest open well, stream or, if they are lucky, donor-sunk borehole, has become common sight in Harare and other urban centres.

It is to state the obvious to say that the water supply systems in Zimbabwe’s cities, especially Bulawayo and Harare, are so overburdened that they could anytime collapse altogether.

Take for example the case of Harare, which because of its location in a higher rainfall area is supposed to be in a better situation than Bulawayo. The capital city requires 1 400 megalitres of water per day for its three million residents. But by the city council’s own figures, it can only process 650 megalitres – or less than half of what is required.

No one needs to be told that the collapse of service delivery in cities and indeed across the entire country is because of the failed policies of President Robert Mugabe and his previous governments.

But what everyone needs to know is whether this present government actually needs to first count dead bodies from cholera before it can start doing something to fix the broken water and sewer systems in our urban areas?

Well, if corpses are what shall move the government it looks like it won’t be long before that happens.

All that is needed is one case of cholera infection – which you can bet will come soon as the summer rains approach – and the backyard wells will come in handy to ensure the killer disease spreads like a wildfire.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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