Zimbabwean health officials are continuing to monitor diarrhea outbreaks in Masvingo and Kadoma while launching a major campaign to ensure that the water-borne disease which has claimed the lives of seven children is quickly contained.
Health officials said they were stepping up public education on how to prevent the further spread of diarrhea, which they blame on sanitation conditions in the two cities as shortages of safe drinking water and poor refuse collection remain problems.
The United Nations Children’s Fund has pledged to help improve rural sanitation to curb outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhea and cholera.
UNICEF Country Representative Peter Salama in a speech said the focus should shift to rural populations which bear the brunt of poor water and inadequate sanitation. He noted that about 4,000 Zimbabwean children die of diarrhea each year.
Dr. Gibson Mhlanga, a principal director in the Health Ministry preventive services department, said washing hands with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea among children by almost 50 percent and respiratory infections by nearly 25 percent.
Fears of another cholera outbreak are rising in Harare where suburbs including Hatcliffe, Budiriro, Mount Pleasant, Tafara, Mabvuku, and Chizhanje have gone for weeks without clean water amid the onset of the rainy season which boosts infection risks.
Harare City Council officials attribute the water shortages to power outages which limit pumping capacity, and a serious pipe break at the Morton Jeffrey Water Works.
Mabvuku Residents Committee Treasurer Sylvia Bhasikolo told Sithandekile Mhlanga that she has witnessed fist fights as hundreds of residents jostle for water at Mabvuku’s only borehole, whose output is far from adequate to meet local needs.
Harare Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto said the local authority has received US144 million from China to rehabilitate the capital's water system, adding that construction of the Kunzvi Dam, now in the works, should solve the city’s water woes.