HomeEditorial CommentCholera exposes govt neglect

Cholera exposes govt neglect

The rapid spread of cholera to cities such as Bulawayo has demonstrated the gravity of the outbreak ravaging some parts of the country.

Editorial

On Friday the country’s second largest city announced that three people had been quarantined on suspicion that they were suffering from cholera.

According to the government, 28 people had succumbed to the waterborne disease by Friday and 4 600 were affected.

A typhoid outbreak recently killed 13 people in Gweru and hundreds were hospitalised.

The cholera outbreak was first officially announced on September 6 and since then the death toll has been rising.

An emergency was declared by the government last week and public gatherings were banned to stop the spread of the disease.

The government, led by new Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to deal with the crisis.

Private citizens and companies started mobilising funds to help in the cholera fight.

The response by the government, corporates and ordinary people has generally been encouraging.

However, what is worth noting is that the ongoing deaths due to cholera could have been avoided.

The outbreak can be traced to Harare City council’s inability to supply water to some suburbs and general decay in its sewer infrastructure.

Over the years, the government has invested very little in building alternative water sources for the expanding city.

As a result, residents in mostly poor suburbs have been relying on open wells and community boreholes for drinking water. Studies have shown that most of these boreholes are contaminated.

On the eve of the 2013 elections, the government crippled local authorities, including Harare, after it unilaterally wrote off millions in debts owed by ratepayers.

The councils are still struggling to recover from that populist move and most of them cannot adequately fund infrastructure renewal or the procurement of water treatment chemicals.

Sustained interference by central government in the affairs of Harare City Council is also another reason why the wheels have come off in the capital.

Therefore, the government cannot escape the blame for the latest outbreak of cholera.

It is principally the criminal negligence by the government that causes the unending outbreaks of cholera and typhoid, especially in Harare.

The government has to immediately prioritise the rehabilitation of sewage reticulation infrastructure in urban areas and address the lack of access to potable water.

Zimbabweans cannot continue to suffer from medieval diseases such as typhoid and cholera because the country has enough resources to ensure that the cities are habitable.

The tragic deaths as a result of the cholera outbreak expose the government’s lack of priorities and the dangers of politicising local government.

It is our hope that the authorities take away a few lessons from this crisis and change their ways.

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