THERE is no doubt right now that, as a country, we are being stalked by a cholera outbreak that can get out of hand.
The signs are all there that the situation is deteriorating but has not got to the stage of a tipping point.
We have already lost a lot of lives in this current outbreak and we could lose many more lives if we don’t do the right things, as a country, to confront this beast and defeat it.
It’s not the first time that cholera has threatened us, in this way, and it is not going to be the last time.
How we react now and how we will react then will define our losses and if we can get it right we will minimise them.
Just like when Covid-19 threatened all of us, what is important right now is for everyone to play his or her part.
We need to listen to what our health authorities are saying because they are the experts when it comes to such outbreaks.
This week, Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Douglas Mombeshora, ordered the removal of all illegal vendors from the streets of Harare in an effort to curb the spread of cholera.
Crucially, he also raised concerns that some vegetable growers were using raw sewage water to irrigate their crops, which were later sold to vendors around the city, potentially contaminating the food chain.
The Harare City Council recently declared a state of emergency due to the cholera outbreak, with over 8 000 suspected cases, 51 confirmed deaths and 152 suspected deaths recorded across the country.
The current outbreak is feared to have echoes of the 2008 outbreak, which killed thousands of our people.
“We have also asked the council to clear all illegal fields and gardens being irrigated using raw sewage water,” said Dr Momeshora.
It does not help that the Harare City Council has a sewage collection efficiency of 71 percent.
This means that almost a third of waste water ends up spilling into the living environment. Around 60 percent of the estimated 330 megalitres of sewage collected from communities every day is lost before it gets to a treatment plant.
“All our treatment plants have a design capacity of 219.5 megalitres per day, but we only have 38 megalitres per day,” said Simon Muserere, the Harare City Council waste water manager.
“This whole vicious cycle has to be broken somewhere, somehow.”
Muserere said the trunk sewer from Kuwadzana to Crowborough was broken and discharged straight into Little Marimba River as well as the stream crossings at Glen Norah.
All these things are providing a fertile ground for the spread of cholera and the sooner we fix them the better for us.
We can’t continue to have people behaving as if all is normal and food being sold from cars as has become common on the streets of Harare.
We can’t prioritise personal business interests at the expense of the health of an entire capital city.