Zim typhoid outbreak: Residents drinking 'dirty, untreated water'

Frank Chikowore, News24
Frank Chikowore, News24

Harare - Some ratepayers and consumers have blamed the typhoid outbreak in Harare on the dirty water that they were allegedly drinking, as authorities moved to set up a ministerial committee to combat the water borne disease.

Authorities said dozens of Harare residents had received treatment at local health centres after showing symptoms of typhoid. One life had so far been claimed.

Some inhabitants like Felix Gumbochuma in the populous Mbare suburb, where most cases of typhoid were reported, told News24 that the "untreated water" that many people in the area were drinking was contributing to the spread of the disease.

"Most people are drinking dirty and untreated water that is coming out of the taps and it’s an insult if anyone thinks that this typhoid is being caused by lack of hygiene in the communities," said Gumbochuma.

Harare mayor Benard Manyenyeni said his council was not responsible for the typhoid.

"We wouldn't attribute the typhoid outbreak to our tap water. If that had been the case, the outbreaks would be much more widespread as our source of water is common," said Manyenyeni.

Bottled water 

His council's spokesperson Michael Chideme said: "We are working hard with other relevant departments to ensure that we stop the spread of the disease. But we may need to visit the areas that are alleged to be receiving dirty water so that our engineers can see that first hand and take corrective measures," said Chideme.

However, a visit by News24 to areas such as Mbare, Glen View and Budiriro revealed that the water was dirty.

"Most of the time we do not have council water on our taps and when they (council) eventually remember that we need water we get this dirty water," said Glen View resident Munyaradzi Chiwetu. 

Many people in Harare, such as Mildred Kombiro of Budiriro high density suburb said they had now resorted to buying bottled water for drinking.

"We are now relying on bottled water for drinking because we do not trust council water as it is always dirty. If you put in glass, you can see some sand settling at the bottom of the glass after some time," said Kombiro.

Clean environment 

She continued: "This is affecting our pockets because we have to buy bottled water every day and for a family as big as mine, it means we have to buy at least 10 litres of bottled water per day."

The Harare City Council has urged residents to maintain a clean environment in their communities to stop the spread of typhoid and other related diseases as authorities have embarked on an accelerated round the clock cleaning exercise in most parts of the capital.   

Meanwhile, Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said authorities have set up an inter-ministerial body to fight the spread of typhoid. 

"The people are encouraged to wash hands under running water before eating or handling food and all drinking water should be boiled before use. The community is encouraged to seek treatment early at the nearest health facility when they are presented with signs and symptoms of typhoid, cholera and other diarrohoeal diseases," said Parirenyatwa.

In 2008, cholera killed at least 4 000 people in Zimbabwe, resulting in authorities declaring a national disaster and appealing for international aid.    

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