Diarrhoeal diseases outbreak warning

HARARE - Harare City Council (HCC)’s epidemiologist, Kudzai Masunda, has warned of diarrhoeal diseases outbreak, as the local authority is increasingly struggling to supply adequate water for residents.

Masunda told the press yesterday that the expected increase in diarrhoea cases is also on the back of rains that are likely to come soon.

His warning comes as Health minister David Parirenyatwa recently issued a health alert, advising residents to exercise great caution during the rainy season, which fuels the spread of communicable diseases.

HCC is facing a severe water supply crisis, which has compelled it to introduce a rationing programme in all the suburbs.

“Our surveillance from previous years shows that we have increased diarrhoeal diseases in the rainy season in Harare. So far this year we have started to record increased cases from week 35,” Masunda said.

He said the local authority has prepared itself by stocking on all essential diarrhoeal medicines.

“Our water situation in Harare is dire as a result of the drought and also upgrading of water treatment and reticulation facilities,” he added.

The epidemiologist advised that all water must be treated.

He further said that “due to the damages that have happened in the water reticulation system, some particles may end up in the water and to be safe, all water should be treated, including underground water”.

Typhoid, cholera and dysentery are categorised as diarrhoeal diseases which are spread through unsanitary facilities and poor handling of food.

Since January, HCC has received 1 500 typhoid cases reports, with 74 confirmed and three deaths.

In 2011, a typhoid outbreak hit Dzivarasekwa and spread to other suburbs such as Warren Park, Kuwadzana, Mufakose, Mabelreign and Granary, with 1 175 treated cases.

Shallow wells — which have sprouted in Harare due to HCC’s failure to meet water demand — have been identified as one of the major causes of diarrhoeal diseases, as they get contaminated during the rainy season.

“When water flows it scoops all the dirt and this dirt some of it goes into the shallow wells in the city here.

“Some people will take cholera infected water from those shallow wells,” Parirenyatwa has said.

Masunda said though the city may want to politic about health matters, the truth was that it is failing to provide water due to the erratic purification and poor distribution systems. Masunda warned that residents should avoid poorly-cooked foods, and indiscriminate disposal of garbage.

Meanwhile, HCC’s water rationing schedule will see some suburbs go for more than three days without water.

To mitigate the problem, council said it will deploy three

20 000 litre bowsers that will deliver water to most affected areas such as Budiriro, Mabvuku and Tafara.

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 17 million typhoid cases are recorded worldwide, with 25 percent of those infected dying.

In 2009, a cholera outbreak caused by poor water and sanitation facilities hit Zimbabwe with more than 4 000 deaths.

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