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Zimbabwe Water Shortages Intensify, Posing Risk Of Deadly Epidemics

Zimbabwe's deepening economic crisis has limited the government’s ability to provide clean water to its citizens, not only causing inconvenience and frustration as daily life becomes unmanageable but also raising the specter of deadly epidemics.

Multiple districts of Harare, the capital, have recently seen outbreaks of diarrheal disease, leading health activists to warn of the danger cholera may be next.

Continuing deterioration of an aging infrastructure inherited from colonial Rhodesia, combined with shortages of water treatment chemicals due to acute shortages of hard currency, have reduced the output of, or even shut down, municipal water systems.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported this week that the Harare suburb of Hatcliffe has been six months without water owing to power outages and technical problems. Similar situations have been reported in Mabvuku and Tafara, and water is also in short supply in Bulawayo and Gweru, to mention just two towns affected.

Ironically, water shortages have become more severe just as parts of the country have been inundated following torrential rains, causing deaths in Muzarabani in the north and Masvingo in the southeast, threatening disease in those areas too.

To examine the crisis and look into what can be done, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with two U.S.-based experts: Davison Saungweme and Godfree Mlambo, Zimbabweans working at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Both completed doctoral studies at Blair Research Institute in Harare, and continue to examine how to help communities avoid water-borne diseases.

Mlambo said Zimbabweans are at high risk of water-borne diseases, and Saungweme said the crisis could compromise the health of those living with HIV/AIDS.

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