Typhoid outbreaks, albeit on a relatively small-scale, have been reported in several suburbs in Harare and Chitungwiza since the beginning of this year. Yet our water woes continue as if nothing has happened. Residents are still making beelines for boreholes and unsafe water sources to beat biting shortages.
Wind back to 2008. Reports of cholera patients being admitted at health centres started as a trickle. No-one seemed to take notice until incidences grew out of hand, with the outbreak ultimately killing more than 4,000 people and leaving over 100,000 others seeking treatment.
The recent delivery of a poisonous substance instead of a water treatment chemical at Morton Jaffray underscored how precarious our situation has become.
Even though we have always known that Harare, in particular, has been battling with procuring sufficient water sterilising chemicals, our appreciation of the extent of the problem is now richer.
For instance, we now know that chemicals, mostly in inadequate batches, are supplied to water treatment plants on an ad hoc basis, especially after Unicef pulled out earlier this year.
Add to this our seemingly clueless municipal authorities, that are saddled with old reticulation infrastructure that is daily pouring raw sewage into rivers and other bodies that we rely on as sources of water, thus providing fertile breeding ground for waterborne diseases.
Stakeholders must without further delay mobilise themselves and come up with a pragmatic framework that adequately addresses national water needs.
A key driver of the water crisis is the inadequacy of funds to procure chemicals and upgrade water and sewer reticulation infrastructure. It follows, therefore, that mobilizing funds should become the primary pillar of whatever model stakeholders come up with.
Cabinet should explore ways of appealing to national revenue to contribute to the fund, while business, which is affected by water shortages, should play its part. The humanitarian community and international donors must also consider how best to intervene, to make the model as all-encompassing as possible.Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga