EDITORIAL COMMENT: Gweru Council must move with speed to contain typhoid outbreak

Uncollected garbage piles in Gweru’s city centre. The City of Gweru has declared an outbreak of typhoid following the death of three people

Uncollected garbage piles in Gweru’s city centre. The City of Gweru has declared an outbreak of typhoid following the death of three people

An outbreak of typhoid in Gweru has already claimed five lives while scores of other residents are receiving treatment at different health institutions in the city. The Town Clerk, Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza, said on Monday that council had set up a treatment centre at Mkoba Polyclinic in order to decongest Gweru Provincial Hospital where many affected residents were seeking treatment.

She said following investigations conducted by the council’s health department together with officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the health authorities had declared a typhoid outbreak in the city.  Ms Gwatipedza said the council could not fight the outbreak alone and was therefore appealing to central Government and other stakeholders to assist.

The Town Clerk said affected residents were mainly from Mkoba Villages 15, 18, 19 and 20. She said boreholes in the affected areas had been classified as dangerous because their water is contaminated. Ms Gwatipedza however said the water from the city’s supply dams, Gwenoro and Whitewaters, was tested and it was found that it is safe for drinking. The affected areas have over the years been subjected to erratic water supplies resulting in residents going for weeks and at times months without water.

When supplies are normal, these areas get water for just a few hours at night hence most of the time they depend on borehole water. The council has for years failed to address this problem which is blamed on its lack of capacity to pump adequate water.

The typhoid outbreak is therefore not a surprise given that the local authority is also failing to collect refuse forcing residents to dump garbage in undesignated areas. The outbreak of the typhoid, according to Ms Gwatipedza, is confined to the four suburbs and the challenge to council and other health officials is to ensure it does not spread to other parts of the city.

We want to therefore call upon the Ministry of Health and Child Care and its partners to move swiftly to assist in containing the outbreak. Resources and manpower should be mobilised to ensure all those affected are treated. It is unfortunate that a modern city like Gweru is battling to contain an outbreak of typhoid which is as a result of failing to maintain high hygienic standards.

The long term solution to challenges facing Gweru is to ensure that all its suburbs have adequate water supplies all the time. The city’s water pumping capacity is failing to cope with demand for water because the system has not been expanded to meet the increased population.

The city’s suburbs have increased over the years but there has not been a corresponding expansion of the city’s water pumping capacity. Gweru City Council should urgently address this shortcoming which is putting the lives of residents at risk.

We cannot afford to lose more lives as a result of the council’s failure to execute its mandate to supply safe drinking water to its residents. Council should therefore give priority to the expansion of its water reticulation system. There is also an urgent need to embark on an awareness campaign to educate residents on the need to maintain high hygienic standards to stop the spread of typhoid.

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