By Margret Chogugudza and Mjamaru- Chitownews reporters.
Hap-hazard and unplanned urbanization leading to overcrowding and acute shortages of water has led to a localized outbreak of diarrheal disease in peri-urban areas of Seke communal lands in Manyame rural district. The affected areas border the eastern periphery of Chitungwiza bordering Unit O, P and N into the Dema, Ziko and Jonasi villages.
Ironically, the affected areas are well-known urban land corruption hotspots with the local headmen being blamed for selling communal pastures and fields to desperate urbanites seeking land for housing developments without proper planning or requisite infrastructure. As a result, the areas have been transformed into slum settlements lacking basic infrastructure such as water reticulation, sewage and roads turning them into public health time-bombs with high potential to incubate epidemics of water-borne and sanitation-related diseases.
A public health expert working with the Ministry of Health who choose to remain anonymous on being interviewed by Chitownews said, “These cases of diarrheal diseases has been steadily rising for the past few years and if no solution is provided, the situation will likely degenerate into a major and fatal outbreak of cholera that can spread into Chitungwiza and the whole of Harare Metropolitan province”.
He stated that, “The major problem in Seke rural is that there is no water infrastructure, residents depend on abstracting ground water and due to low rains last season combined with increasing population pressures, the water table has been decreasing leaving boreholes and wells dry, This has forced residents to turn to unprotected sources dug in dry water streams”.
He blamed these unprotected water sources for spreading the diarrheal diseases, “Unlike Chitungwiza, these are rural settlements and we cannot talk of sewer problems but the major challenge is the use of dirty water from unprotected sources”.
The health expert described the settlement in Seke rural as haphazard and disorganized, making it difficult to develop and put in place water and sanitation infrastructure.
“The settlements were built without any planning with profiteering and political imperatives determining their structure and population density. Manyame rural district council has tried to regularize these settlements in the past but met stiff resistance from the house-owners who are unsure of their right to the land and are wary of being sidelined during the regularization process”.
A resident of Jonasi village interview by Chitownews blamed the government for the mess because it has failed in its duty to provide housing for all. “They failed to provide us with housing and the need to put a roof over our heads has forced us to stay in these conditions. We are going to face many public health challenges like dearhoea, typhoid and cholera”, said the woman.