BULAWAYO residents are living in fear of contracting cholera as a significant number of suburbs in the city are going for prolonged periods without water.
Areas such as Mpopoma, Lobengula, Magwegwe and Pumula have been getting water for a maximum of two days a week with some of the suburbs going for more than a week without water.
The country has been facing a surge in cholera cases which have surpassed the 2 000 mark, amid reports that the water-borne disease has killed 42 people so far.
The reports show that of the 42 deaths recorded, 10 have been confirmed and 32 are suspected cases awaiting laboratory results.
According to the cholera situational report from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, of the total cases that have been recorded since the outbreak in February, 92 percent have recovered.
The first cholera outbreak in the country this year was recorded on February 12 in Chegutu, Mashonaland West Province.
Confirmed cases have been reported in nine provinces except for Bulawayo.
The 17 cholera hotspot districts in the country are Buhera, Chegutu, Chikomba, Chimanimani, Chipinge, Chitungwiza, Chiredzi, Harare, Gokwe North, Marondera, Mazowe, Shamva, Mutare, Murehwa, Mwenezi, Seke and Hwedza.
Residents said they were worried that should the water crisis continue, people could end up contracting cholera as they have resorted to fetching water from unsafe sources.
Some said they now use toilets at their workplaces while others have resorted to open defecation as they do not have water to flush their toilets at home.
Mrs Sinikiwe Dube from Mpopoma suburb said they had gone for more than five days without water and were told the Bulawayo City Council was fixing a pumping problem at one of the reservoirs.
She said she feared letting her children go to school as she knows they do not fully follow hygiene practices despite the school having a borehole.
“The problem is not even at schools only, but even here at home because children will always want to use the toilet and as such, you need to make sure that the toilet is always clean, but how do I clean a toilet without water. It’s worse for us who are renting and have to share toilets because I can’t be forcing an old person to keep the toilet clean and I can’t always be guiding people who are going to the toilet. I have heard we’re the only city that has not recorded a cholera case but with the way things are, I’m not sure if that will be the case for long,” said Mrs Dube.
Mrs Edith Kurewa of Magwegwe said residents were now getting water from a burst pipe along Siyephambili Drive.
“Some residents come with dirty buckets which may have even been used in their toilets, but they will still use them to fetch water from the burst pipe which everyone else uses. We no longer have time for anything else at our homes since we spend hours sitting here waiting for our turn to fetch water,” said Mrs Kurewa.
Another Magwegwe resident Mr Prince Moyo said they were desperate for running water in their homes.
He said the BCC should make an effort to ensure that residents do not go for more than three days without water.
“Cholera seems to be intense from what everyone is saying, so I can only imagine what is going to happen should people contract it and there’s no running water in their homes. We honestly don’t care about where the water is coming from as long as we have water,” said Mr Moyo.
Ms Chipo Magama from Old Magwegwe said she had left her three-year-old daughter at home alone as she had to go and fetch water to bathe her and prepare her meals.
She said some residents had vandalised the pipe from one of the reservoirs in order to access water.
“We’re being advised to use clean water and to wash our hands regularly, but how are we expected to do that with the current water situation. We can’t be spending a week without water and yet see that as a normal thing. Council should do better because people will perish if cholera starts invading the city,” said Ms Magama.
In a statement, the Bulawayo City Council said the water disruption was due to an electrical fault that had upset operations at Criterion Water Works last week.
“The water works were without water from Friday as of 1920hrs till Sunday 0025hrs due to the electrical fault. This meant that there was no water treatment during that period affecting the reservoir levels in the various distribution zones. ZETDC worked tirelessly to have power restored back to Criterion. Full treatment recommenced soon after and this is in progress. We anticipate that the city reservoirs continue to recover and water supply is restored to all affected areas,” read the statement.
Last week, the local authority issued a notice of interruption of supplies to facilitate the installation of new protection relays to protect the transformers at Ncema and Fernill pump stations, leaving most suburbs without water.
Bulawayo United Residents Association (Bura) chairperson Mr Winos Dube said the water crisis in the city raises serious concerns on how safe residents are with the rise in cholera cases.
He said boreholes dotted around the suburbs were overwhelmed and cannot service all residents.
“The water that comes from the taps and even the boreholes is not even that safe so residents need to take extra caution and listen to what health experts are advising them. Residents should make sure they purify the water before drinking it because that is the only way we can guarantee safety. I don’t even know how safe the little ones are at schools when we are faced with such a bad water crisis. Local authorities should look for ways of getting water to suburbs that go for long periods without water,” said Mr Dube. – Chroncile