Cholera kills five in Harare

Pit latrine
A dilapidated pit latrine. Almost half of Zimbabwe’s rural population relieve themselves in the bush making water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid common. FILE | NATION MEDIA 

Five people have died in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare following a fresh cholera outbreak, city officials said on Friday.

Six hundred new cases of the water borne disease have been recorded since the end of October.

Harare City Council deputy director of health Prosper Chonzi said most of the deaths occurred at high density suburbs without access to clean water.

“The fight against typhoid, which began in the city last year, is far from over as we continue to record fresh outbreaks,” he told state television on Friday.

Typhoid is a bacterial disease transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with faeces of an infected person.

Harare’s water supplies are heavily polluted by sewerage from burst pipes that go for days without repairs.

A University of Zimbabwe environmentalist, Prof Chris Magadza, this week revealed that a river that feeds the city’s main water source – Lake Chivero – now supplied 50 per cent clean water while the remainder was “our returned urine”.

Inadequate water

“Lake Chivero receives so much sewage and there is algae called microcystis, which can cause liver cancer,” he said.

“For example, in South Africa this algae has killed a lot of cattle.”

Prof Magadza also blamed the pollution of Lake Chivero on the destruction of wetlands.

Harare has suffered a frequent outbreak of diarrhoeal diseases since 2008 when cholera killed over 4,000 people and infected close to 100,000 others.

A typhoid outbreak also hit Harare early this year, but there were no fatalities.

The disease quickly spread to other parts of the country, but urban centres were the most affected.

Most of Zimbabwe’s cities suffer from inadequate water supplies as a result of government’s failure to invest in new water sources since independence from Britain in 1980.

The cholera outbreak was worsened by a collapse of the country’s health delivery system.

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