Diarrheal Diseases Outbreak

The Combined Harare Residents Association has done a survey which is meant to unravel the causes and trying to find lasting solutions to the current health crisis. There has been so much talk from the responsible authorities with regards to the causes of typhoid and according to a Council report which was presented on Wednesday 25 January at a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene cluster meeting held at Rowan Marten offices, City of Harare has put the blame on food stuffs being sold by local vendors.

The environmental health officer for the western district dismissed the outbreak’s relation to water adding that those who sell food stuffs were not practicing good hygiene standards which in turn has caused this outbreak. The official reported that tests which were conducted from samples of tomatoes, sadza, meat and fish indicated that the food had salmonella typhi, a bacterium that causes typhoid. In reaction, the local authority says that it has launched an operation together with the ZRP targeting illegal vendors.

The challenges that are currently being faced by the health department boarders around the issue of adequate equipment and vehicles to use. Currently, there is only one vehicle which is being used to attend to any sewer bursts in Dzivarasekwa and Kuwadzana. There is also need for more refuse trucks to increase refuse collection in these affected areas but currently the local authority in greatly incapacitated. People are resorting to drinking water from boreholes and their wells because they just do not trust council water.

CHRA findings

In order to come up with an informed view of the current outbreak, the Associations’ research and monitoring unit visited Dzivarasekwa and Kuwadzana respectively. It was discovered that in Dzivarasekwa 3, almost one in every five households has had their tap water disconnected. Residents who live along Sinyoro, Zororo and Tatenda Place are sourcing water from unprotected wells which is being fed by a drain along Sinyoro Street.

Furthermore microbiological tests conducted by the Harare water indicated that there were contaminated by coli form. The houses do not have supporting infrastructure like sinks which can safely drain away water, instead water just runs off and residents’ reluctantly capture the same water to feed into their sugar cane gardens. In the same area, residents share one toilet and one tap i.e. two different stands number one and number two share a common toilet which are in a bad state.

This is very dangerous especially when trying to curb such infectious diseases as typhoid. The survey unearthed that most of those who have had their tap water cut, have re-connected themselves after they had realized that the typhoid outbreak was imminent. Statistics show that Dzivarasekwa 3 typhoid cases continue to spiral and it is becoming very difficult to contain this disease.

Interviews show that many of those who do not have running water are in possession of clinic cards which indicate that they have been treated of a diarrheal disease at one time between November 2011 to date(CHRA is in possession of photocopied clinic cards of these households).

Residents in Kuwadzana say that their tap water is up and running but they just hesitate to use it opting for borehole water. Residents of Kuwadzana are living in a dilemma as to which water source is safe to use .On the other hand despite the fact that it was discovered that some water sources (boreholes and shallow wells) in Dzivarasekwa are contaminated the information has not been relayed to the grassroots communities on what action to take hence residents have been continuously relied on contaminated water sources. Refuse collection is an area which needs urgent attention given that this year alone there has been no sight of refuse collectors.

Kuwadzana diarrheal statistics as from Sunday 22January

Sunday: 63 cases

Monday: 62cases (32 suspected typhoid cases referred to Beatrice infectious diseases hospital)

Tuesday: 50 cases

What has CHRA done about this situation?

 The Association took samples of water from boreholes and selected homes (tap water) for microbial testing. This will allow CHRA to give residents reliable information on which source of water is safe to use.

 The Association has collected names of household whose water supplies have been cut by City of Harare over unpaid bills. CHRA estimates that one in every four households has had their tap water cut. The Association will meet with the Mayor and the Town Clerk to appeal to the city to reconnect water supplies.

 The Association is in process of mobilizing residents through its membership for public meetings that will be conducted in affected area. These meetings will invite experts in the health profession to educate residents on good health and hygiene practices

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