COMMUNITY WORKING GROUP ON HEALTH
24 January 2018
Government must show political will to address Cholera and Typhoid in Zimbabwe
THE Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) is appalled by the apparent lack of political will on the part of government to address the recurrent outbreaks of cholera and typhoid that have killed scores of people and continue to cause illness to many in the country in the past few years.
The latest outbreak of cholera in Chegutu and typhoid in Harare — following another one late last year – is clear evidence of lack of political will to address this persistent problem. What is annoying is that cholera and typhoid are not only medieval but simple diseases that can be contained by addressing basic social determinants of health. It only takes supplying residents with clean and safe running water, collecting garbage regularly, building proper toilets and quick fixation of burst sewerage pipes to avoid spillages into water bodies that supply drinking water to residents.
Instead of addressing the drivers of cholera and typhoid, it is disturbing that the political leadership in this country continues to promote illegal settlements mostly in peri-urban areas for political expediency at the expense of the health of the people. Mushrooming settlements have become the springboards and epi- centres of typhoid and cholera because there is no portable water, no toilets and rubbish bins are not collected. As an alternative to the non-availabity of water, residents dig shallow and unprotected wells side by side with communal latrines from where they draw water for drinking, exposing themselves to waterborne diseases.
This lack of political will has been worsened by endemic corruption mostly in local authorities which in most cases go unpunished. Money collected from residents for water and refuse rates is never used for the intended purposes but to sustain the fabulous live styles of certain individuals. How many times has Morton Jeffrey Waterworks shut down “for maintenance” and residents assured of clean and uninterrupted water supply but nothing changes. Is this not taking ratepayers for granted? The CWGH therefore calls on the government to prioritize service provision of water, housing and sanitation services to avoid future outbreaks. This also calls for increased transparency and accountability in the use of available resources.
Most cities in the country continue to experience intermittent water supplies, blockages to the sewerage systems and a sporadic rubbish collection service, all key drivers of the outbreak of typhoid and cholera. Water is a basic need and a fundamental human right. Government should stand guided by the Constitution which rightly states that access to potable water is a fundamental human right as stated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (no. 20) Act 2013 under the Declaration of rights Chapter 4 Section 77.
As a country, we should be ashamed that Zimbabwe continues to grapple with archaic and medieval diseases such as cholera and typhoid that were wiped out in other progressive countries some centuries ago. What boggles the mind is that Zimbabwe claims to have the highest literacy rates in Africa and yet we, as a country, still cannot contain long forgotten diseases that even the poorest countries on the continent have been able to suppress.
The continued outbreak of cholera and typhoid are a clear sign that shows that Zimbabwe did not learn anything from the 2008/9 cholera epidemic which killed over 4 500 people and affected over 100 000 others.
The CWGH would like to emphasise that piece-meal measures like banning vending without addressing the social determinants of health will not solve the problem at hand. We also acknowledge that the current health crisis does not emanate from the health sector alone but from wider economic decline and the increasing extent to which people are not accessing basic public services like clean running water, clean air and a clean environment – which are major determinants of health. But the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), as the custodian of the Public Health Act, should drive the process of bringing sanity into the country’s towns and cities. It must come up with long-term strategies that involve all the stakeholders including the private sector to end these primitive diseases.
CWGH is concerned that MoHCC is urging citizens to drink clean water but where do people get clean water when there is not electricity to boil it, when there are no aqua tablets and they cannot afford to sink private boreholes? It is against this background that CWGH urges the MoHCC to work with other stakeholders to provide long lasting solutions to this crisis.
Outbreaks of these diseases obviously affected the performance of the economy and potential investors. No sane investor or tourist would want to visit the country under the current situation and yet Zimbabwe pins its hopes for economic turnaround on foreign direct investment and tourism inflows.
Zimbabwe should take a leaf from what happened in neighbouring Zambia, where within a few days the country was able to contain the cholera outbreak. All stakeholders including the Zambia national army were involved in bringing normalcy back in the country. This multi-sectoral approach is key if the country is to successfully prevent further outbreaks of these diseases. It should rope in the other government departments including the Ministry of Education to raise awareness in institutions of learning.
CWGH also calls for the speedy finalization of the Public Health Act Amendment Bill and strengthening its enforcement mechanisms in order to protect the public from poor service provision. This calls upon the government to strengthen surveillance system to prevent these diseases.
The CWGH is a network of civic and community-based organizations that aim to collectively enhance community participation in Zimbabwe, including improving social determinants of health and alleviating poverty.
For further information, please contact:
The Executive Director
Itai Rusike (Mr)
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) 4 O’Conner Crescent
Cranborne, Harare Zimbabwe
Tel: +263-4-571 327/ 571 481 / 571 203
Cell: +263 772 363 991
Email: Itai@cwgh.co.zw / firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.cwgh.co.zw
Twitter: @itairusike Facebook.com/CWGH/