Lives at risk as government remains indifferent

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) remains greatly perturbed by the ongoing water related challenges – ‘shortages, water cuts, unclean water, waterborne typhoid’ – that continue to be reported in the media.

ZLHR further notes that there continues to be resounding silence on the part of governmental officials on the strategy to effectively deal with the perennial water woes that are bedeviling the greater part of Harare, Chitungwiza, Bulawayo as well many other cities and towns around the country.

Media reports have also exposed yet another outbreak of typhoid in Harare and Chitungwiza barely 5 months after an outbreak was recorded in the same locations in February 2012, impeding on enjoyment of not only social and economic rights of the infected or affected inhabitants but also posing as a real threat to the enjoyment of their civil rights and freedoms. The silence on the part of state actors responsible is equally compelling.

ZLHR notes that, while this outbreak is closely associated with perennial water shortages, this is not an entirely new problem, but an ongoing issue that has not and continues not to be dealt with properly by the authorities. There also continues to be lack of information or clarity on what concrete action if at all government has taken or will take to address this and avert a pending health crisis and potential national disaster.

Needless to say that there have also been disturbing reports in the press on the aversion of ‘possible water poisoning’ following the detection of poisonous water treatment chemicals in Harare. While commendable action has been taken to deal with this issue – with a team being set up to deal with this issue this does not absolve the responsibility of the responsible Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and other relevant government departments and ministries to deliver on their key mandate which is supplying the nation with regular clean drinking water.

There has been no concrete action to consult, formulate, adopt and implement concrete short term and long term solutions in the past and even at present to effectively deal with the water crisis.

ZLHR wishes to remind government officials that access to clean water is a basic human right that is interrelated to enjoying other fundamental rights such as the rights to health and life. Failure to take action to supply citizens with the precious liquid is dereliction of duty. Further, ZLHR reiterates that in this day and age, it is alarming and quite unusual for the continued occurrence of Typhoid and other water borne diseases that are ordinarily preventable and medieval diseases.

ZLHR holds the coalition government, and through it the Harare City Council, and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), accountable for the typhoid fever epidemic as they continue to fail to address the water crisis by failing to provide a continuous supply of clean running water and other adequate sanitary facilities.

Indeed, the people residing in the most populated suburbs (and other areas) are the most affected and the authorities are failing to adequately respond to and contain the spread of this avoidable disease. The failure by the government to swiftly respond to the typhoid epidemic is an unacceptable failure of leadership that must not and will never be condoned.

These wanton infections are intolerable and shameful, and the State’s failure is merely a replication of other high level failures.

ZLHR reminds the government once again, that human rights relating to health are set out in many international and regional human rights instruments such as Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights amongst others and, as a State Party to these, the government of Zimbabwe is obliged to ensure the realization of these rights.

Failure by the government to guarantee and respect citizens’ right to health by failing to provide basic services such as access to an uninterrupted source of clean water amounts to a serious violation of international human rights treaty obligations.

It is therefore essential to take a holistic approach to the realization of the right to health whereby both prevention and care are placed at the centre of interventions.

In the circumstances, ZLHR calls upon the government including local authorities as well as ZINWA to immediately formulate short term and long term measures to: Ensure the supply of clean running water that is always accessible to all communities.

Prevent further outbreaks of typhoid, contain the epidemic, and prevent further outbreaks. Take urgent action to ensure that all affected people obtain urgent medical assistance and treatment.

Provide as a matter of urgency adequate sanitary facilities to affected communities and others at risk to halt the spread of the disease.

Post published in: Politics

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