Focused water programmes can mitigate disease woes

HARARE - The publicity that has been given to the cholera and typhoid issue to date shows just how critical its containment is in our communities.

One of the major reasons for this is that it is a highly-contagious affliction with the potential to spread beyond geographical borders in a short time. Also — and sadly too — these are diseases that should not even be part of our problem list in this day and age because they can be avoided once communities start doing the right thing.

However, to expect communities to play their part in eradicating cholera and typhoid as well as dysentery, there are minimum conditions that central government and local authorities must be providing, particularly to poor communities — both in urban and rural settings.

Once communities have uninterrupted access to clean and safe drinking water, these medieval water-borne diseases can be struck off our problems list.

Currently, Zimbabwe is struggling — together with partners Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) — to contain a cholera outbreak in Chegutu. As reported by our sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday, government is ill-equipped to fight cholera.

While the efficacy of available therapeutic interventions cannot be disputed once patients present themselves early for treatment, the costs involved can be avoided once we right certain wrongs within our systems.

Access to safe water is guaranteed in the country’s Constitution and as such must be central when the State draws up its spending priorities. Investment in supply water projects in rural areas does not need to be debated yet successive Parliaments have not been able to ensure this, instead focusing on personal benefits they can draw from their election into the august house.

Even in cases when legislators got the Constituency Development Fund, practically very little went into waste disposal, water supply and reticulation projects. Instead most members of Parliament converted this facility to personal use.

The affluent among the country’s population can afford to sink their own boreholes so that they can have access to safe drinking water. However, poor communities would expect government to help them with this.

The problems that have dogged Chegutu’s water reticulation system are not peculiar to the urban authority alone as several other councils are using obsolete infrastructure that is putting whole populations at the risk of infection.

Once such focused programmes are rolled out, communities can heave a sigh of relief.

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