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#ZimCholeraOutbreak: How to Win the War, Effectively

Harare – “It’s a very serious issue we must make sure we up ourselves to deal with this problem.  “It’s actual an embarrassment to say in ...

Harare – “It’s a very serious issue we must make sure we up ourselves to deal with this problem. 

“It’s actual an embarrassment to say in this day and age where we have modern technologies, where we have modernity, young people, great doctors, we are struggling with cholera?

Derick Matsengarwodzi
“And we have lost lives, it’s a very serious indictment to our county and we need to make that we fight this problem together,” opposition leader Nelson Chamisa reasoned.

Sadly, the problem persists.

Immediate remedy
Unlike in 2008, the current government has seen their shortcomings and moved to address the disease before it spreads. The government must learn from past mistakes – which induced more than 4 000 deaths in less than a year. Declaring a state of emergency is not enough if it is not followed by immediate action.

“I am happy to say our doctors have been assisted by others and WHO (the World Health Organisation). So now that there is no cholera.

“Because of cholera, Mr Brown wants a military intervention. Bush wants military intervention because of cholera. There is no cause for war any more. The cholera cause doesn't exist anymore,” Robert Mugabe said then.
Nelson Chamisa Visits Cholera Victims in Harare 

Improve the economy
High inflation in 2008 and beyond triggered severe basic food shortages, collapse of service delivery and large volumes of refugees moving within the country and to neighbouring countries amplified the rapid spared of cholera. Just like a decade earlier – the economy is still in comatose.

Vendors are on a free reign everywhere in the country – peddling their wares at will. Without enforcing proper by-laws the cholera outbreak could spiral to 2008 levels.

Improve service delivery 
Mushrooming of illegal settlements has become a political tool to win elections. Chitungwiza – the third largest and fastest growing high density town in Zimbabwe lies 30 kilometers from Harare, and came into existence in 1978, deriving its name from a spiritual medium’s shrine.

In 1996, the town gained full municipal status, but till this day, it lacks an independent water purification plant to supply its residents with safe drinking water – hence its reliance on Harare for its daily allocations.

Accumulating debts by the municipality and residents induce persistent water cuts, resulting in marathon days without essential supplies. Hordes of residents and businesses were displaced by Operation Restore Order in 2005, when their structures deemed illegal, were flattened.

Raw sewage from burst and aging municipal pipes contaminated urban domestic water system, creating a national catastrophe. In 2013 – a week before general elections, the ruling party cancelled all water bills in urban areas - they went on to win the elections but most municipalities never recovered.

Clean water

Due to high levels of dirt in the domestic water supply dams, water treatment was not enough to purify the dirt water. The tendering procurement system for water chemicals was sprinkled with serious corruption, rendering it a complete chaos. Old water supply pipes lost almost 60 percent of the treated precious liquid before it reached consumers.

Harare water taps ran dry on December 1, 2008 owing to a shortage of purification chemicals – effectively implying that Chitungwiza was affected as well. On 4 December, 2008 – as the cholera outbreak was gaining momentum, the then deputy minister of water announced that there were only chemical supplies for 12 weeks in stock.

Dormitory towns, including Chitungwiza purchase their domestic water from Harare at an extra cost. Nonpayment meant some suburbs could go for months without clean water supplies, after Harare disconnected regular supplies.

Water problems have haunted the populous town for decades as confirmed by Chitungwiza Residents Association (CHIRA), in 2017, a decade later.

“The water situation has forced many families in Chitungwiza to rely on water from shallow wells or boreholes further exposing citizens to a danger of contracting diarrheal diseases. Those in need of water are now expected to walk for distances in search of this precious liquid.”

Improved healthcare
Decreasing education standards, low pay and severe shortages of medical supplies triggered a massive exodus of qualified personnel, while only 25 percent of vacant medical posts are taken, with even fewer specialist positions occupied, posing serious challenges to HIV/AIDS and cholera.

The severity of the 2008 outbreak, last recorded a decade earlier, was attributed to poor access of health care, poor health infrastructure, high HIV prevalence, political instability, food shortages, high levels of displaced people and lack of access to safe water.

Urgent help
The European Union, Britain and the Netherlands made a significant donation of €9 million, £3 million and £5 million separately. Other international agencies availed fresh water and essential drugs – though they were skeptical that the aid could be diverted to prop Mugabe’s prolonged stay in power.

According to Tendai Biti, “The cholera crisis is as unpardonable as it is man-made. This government has failed to provide capital funding to local authorities to address water infrastructure challenges. They have failed the people. The international Community sadly must fill in the gap created.”

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