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Zimbabwe Government Downplays Gravity Of Diahrreal Disease Outbreaks

The Zimbabwean government has denied that a sharp increase in cases of diarrhea is related to chronic water shortages in Harare and other cities, although the state-run Herald newspaper has quoted Harare’s top health official, Prosper Chonzi, as saying city health centers are treating around 900 cases of diarrheal disease a day.

Chonzi told the Herald that public health officials fear “the situation might get out of hand” if there the regular flow of water to Zimbabwean cities is not restored. Most of the country's major cities have had severe water shortages in recent months due to electrical power shortages, breakdowns, or a lack of water purification chemicals.

But Deputy Health Minister Edwin Muguti told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that there is no evidence the “watery diarrhea and dysentery” are linked to water shortages, adding that the latest outbreaks are not “serious.”

But opposition lawmaker Blessing Chebundo, chairman of the parliamentary committee on health, said that in cities where the Zimbabwe National Water Authority has taken over municipal water systems, residents have been going without water for days or weeks, increasing their risk of infection by drinking water from other sources.

Chebundo cited the recent firings of two senior engineers in connection with the crisis at Harare's Morton Jaffray water plant as an indication that all is not well in the state water authority's operations in the Zimbabwean capital.

Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said any disease outbreak in a city should be taken seriously.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...