via Scores treated for dysentery in water scarce Harare | SW Radio Africa by Nomalanga Moyo October 28, 2013
Concerns have been raised that the water scarce city of Harare could be hit by a major outbreak of waterborne diseases, after scores of residents contracted dysentery in the past fortnight.
Harare is in the throes of a long-running water crisis, with the local authority failing to provide safe, treated water, thus exposing the families to such diseases as typhoid, cholera, diarrhoea, and dysentery.
With no running water for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning or flushing toilets, sometimes for weeks, some residents have resorted to using raw, untreated water from sources such as the sewage-infested Mukuvisi River.
Earlier this month, the council started disconnecting supply to defaulting residents, a move which has pushed even more residents to draw water from unprotected sources.
Health authorities quoted by the Standard newspaper on Sunday said these disconnections, coupled with the endless water woes, were to blame for the health scare, as more households in Kambuzuma, Mbare, Budiriro and Kuwadzana turned to unsafe water.
According to the paper, the suburb of Kambuzuma had recorded the highest number of residents who had sought medical treatment for the contagious dysentery disease.
City health director Dr. Prosper Chonzi told the Standard that at least 122 cases of dysentery had been confirmed, with fears raised that this official figure does not account for those residents who are either not seeking treatment or were seeking help outside mainstream health facilities.
Chonzi further “emphasised the importance of the provision of good, safe drinking water in adequate quantities all the time, good sanitation practices and good personal hygiene,” and urged “people to continue boiling or treating water from whatever source before using it for domestic purposes.”
Chonzi is part of the Harare City Council, which has in the past decade consistently failed to ensure the “provision of good, safe, drinking water in adequate quantities all the time.”
A stream of raw sewerage from Matapi flats that feeds into Mukuvisi river.
Although Chonzi said the figures were a long way from what would constitute an “outbreak,” very few residents will be reassured until the city authorities come up with a decisive solution to restore regular clean water supply to Harare households.
Since the beginning of the year, 382 people are estimated to have died countrywide as a result of diarrhoea related problems, with 14 deaths recorded in the first week of October alone.
Between 2008 and 2009 at least 4,000 are known to have died of cholera, another waterborne disease, while at least 90,000 people contracted the disease.
Waterborne diseases are highly contagious, and spread very fast in densely populated areas where people are likely to share sanitary facilities.
Residents exhibiting dysentery-related symptoms, such as a sudden onset of high fever and chills, abdominal pain, vomiting and dehydration, are urged to seek medical attention, as the disease is fatal if left untreated.
Precautionary measures for waterborne disease include boiling drinking water fetched from ‘unsafe’ sources such as open wells and rivers, as well as observing hygienic practices such as hand washing with clean water, especially after visiting the toilet.