Zimbabweans fear cholera outbreak amid drought
according to rapporteur report from aanews, link ,The water crisis facing Zimbabwe’s capital Harare has sparked fears of an outbreak of diseases such as cholera, which led to thousands of deaths less than a decade ago.
Hit by severe drought, low reservoir levels and a crumbling water supply infrastructure, wide swathes of the city are now restricted to running water two days a week and have become reliant on potentially polluted sources for everyday use.
The drought has seen rivers, boreholes and wells dry up, often because of poor farming practices and building on wetlands, as well as one of the hottest summers in recent years.
“We are very concerned about the severe water shortage throughout the country, both in urban and rural areas,” Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told Anadolu Agency. “People are resorting to using very scarce resources such as shallow wells -- some of it is muddy water and one can just imagine what sort of organisms can be found in there.
“Our worry is that if flash rains come this is what causes diarrheal diseases such cholera, dysentery and typhoid.”
According to government meteorologists, Zimbabwe is experiencing its highest temperatures since the 1960s, around 4C (7F) higher than average. In Harare, the mercury reached 39C (102F) on Oct. 17.
As water storage levels fell to two-thirds of their usual average, many Harare residents have been forced to turn to unclean water sources as well as UNICEF-funded boreholes and, if they can afford them, “water poachers” -- illegal water suppliers that charge the wealthy up to $100 for a steady supply of clean water.
The “poachers” are accused of stealing water from reservoirs managed by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority under cover of night for sale to desperate residents, undercutting firms who pay the authority for their supplies.
The crisis is overshadowed by memories of 2008/09, when more than 4,000 Zimbabweans died from cholera due to unclean water -- one of the worst outbreaks recorded in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNICEF.
The drought is the worst since 1991/92, when southern Africa was struck by widespread crop failure, food shortages and extreme famine.
Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri said below average rainfall in 2015/16 had reduced dam storage level while high temperatures had triggered high demand, causing municipalities to introduce water rationing.
“We are living dangerously as a country and I wonder if we should consult church prophets for our behavior to change,” she said.
“Streams and shallow wells, which have become a major source of water for our people, are contaminated and this could result in severe disease outbreaks soon.”
Around half of the 1,000 communal manual pump boreholes sunk earlier this year have dried up and residents in Harare, which usually remains unaffected by drought, are now spending hours every day at the remaining functioning boreholes scattered across the city.
Men, women and children carting huge plastic containers through the city are a regular sight and the crisis has spawned a mini-industry of children who charge $1 to queue and fill 25-liter containers for those without the time.
The average family-of-five needs at least 100 liters a day for drinking and washing.
“I work in the central business district and each morning I… employ youths to fill my containers for me,” local Thomas Dube said. “I then pick them up after work.”
In the packed townships where most Harare residents live, the local authority announced five-day water cuts every week due to low water levels.
“Our water situation here worsened long back before the council started water rations,” 34-year-old Rutendo Dzvairo said at a borehole in Budiriro, a dense neighborhood in southwest Harare.
“For me to get water supplies I have to be at the borehole as early 3.00 a.m. to avoid long queues. The boreholes dry up during the day so we have to fetch water when it starts coming out early in the morning.”
In Sunningdale, a south Harare township, the wells and boreholes have also dried up and residents fetch water from dirty streams.
“We store water in buckets for drinking and cooking when the city council supplies resume once a week but for flushing the toilet and laundry we use water from the Mukuvisi river, where industries dump their liquid waste,” local Peter Chikozho, 42, told Anadolu Agency.
Zimbabwe’s rainy season usually arrives in October but has recently been as late at November and meteorologists have warned it will be delayed again this year.
In the city’s schools, pupils are asked to bring at least 2 liters of water every day for drinking and to use in toilets as the schools’ own boreholes have run dry.
Residents have been warned that the restrictions will remain in place until at least next month, with a review in December. Many hope that when the rains do come, they do not herald a flood of disease as well.