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Chitungwiza vulnerable to typhoid

The air around the town is pregnant with asphyxiating smells, a combination of the smell of raw sewage, uncollected rubbish and shockingly, the smell of fresh meat, fish and fruits sold at shopping centres dotted around the town, some 25 kilometres away from the capital Harare.

Mary Chipadze, a vendor, with a child strapped on her back, sells fresh meat in the open and with a small twig in her hand, casually swats at flies that have become her permanent guests.

Her main preoccupation is discussing with fellow vendors the prices of their wares and she does not seem bothered by the flies that have nestled on her baby.

“Sausage 5 rand mukwasha,” she says to a young man, who seems to be interested in buying meat for that evening at Huruyadzo Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza’s St Mary’s high-density suburb.

Chipadze sells sausages, meat and fresh fish, saying this is her only means of survival.
“If I don’t come here then my children will starve,” she says. “I failed to get a job so this is my only way of survival.”

Suddenly her tone changes and she demands to know why she is being asked questions.
Chipadze is one of scores of vendors who throng the centre daily at mid-afternoon to sell meat, which is surprisingly popular with customers.

While some vendors sell their meat and fish in the open, others have become enterprising and package their meat while nearby a man sells chicken from the back of a van.

Another vendor, Joseph Mapuranga, concurred with Chipadze, saying vendors were able to remain in business because there was demand for their services.

“We would not be here if we had no customers, so it means these people trust our products,” Mapuranga, a fish monger, said confidently.

He asked that council construct vending bays for them, but seemed oblivious to the typhoid threat, currently wreaking havoc in Harare.

“We would not be here if there were proper bays, we just want to make a living like everyone else,” he continued, from his vending spot, a few metres away from a dirty pool of water that had collected following the previous night’s rains.

The chaotic situation at Huruyadzo was a microcosm of the situation in the rest of Chitungwiza, like in Units D, E and H.

Open-air sale of meat and other fresh fruit have become very popular because the products are usually cheaper.
However, others warn the meat is usually not inspected and people who buy it could be compromising their health.

Fresh fruit like mangoes, long-known to be conveyors of diseases such cholera and typhoid, are in demand as the residents of the area seem not to be bothered about the typhoid outbreak in nearby Harare.

Already in Harare the municipality has descended heavily on vendors of fresh meat and fish, culminating in the closure of the ever-popular Mereki open-air braaing joint.

Efforts to get a comment from the council were fruitless, as a commission to run the town has just been put in place.

Chitungwiza City Council spokesman Zephaniah Mandirahwe declined to comment saying he was on leave while Mayor Philemon Chitiyo referred all questions to the health department, saying he had not been to the council offices.

At last count, 1 800 people had received treatment for typhoid in Harare, while statistics for other places were not available.

Experts have warned the typhoid outbreak could be a precursor of worse things to follow, like the deadly cholera.

The government has already warned the typhoid outbreak could be replicated in other urban centres, as water and sewer infrastructure in most areas were generally dilapidated and in urgent need for repair.

But for vendors in Chitungwiza, they live to sell another day, hoping that just maybe, the typhoid outbreak may be tamed before it reaches their shores.

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