COUNCIL FACES LAWSUIT OVER TYPHOID
10 January 2017
A HEALTH lobby group is mulling suing the Harare City Council following the deaths of two Mbare residents from typhoid.
Community Working Group on Health director, Itai Rusike said over the years the call to have the Harare City Council (HCC) improve on service delivery has continued to fall on deaf ears resulting in the avoidable deaths of innocent citizens.
“Typhoid is a preventable and treatable disease and all deaths recorded so far are avoidable hence our intention to take up the issue with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Lawyers to sue the concerned authorities for the avoidable deaths,” he said.
Rusike said since the unprecedented cholera outbreak that hit the country between 2008 and 2009, most urban areas have continued to have poor sanitation, crowding and squalid conditions, erratic potable water supplies of questionable quality which have continued to fuel the known killer communicable infections which used to be rare in the country.
“How many more people should die for the authorities to ensure that residents get safe water and improved service delivery.
“Zimbabweans are not numbers of typhoid cases or fatalities, they are people who have responded to an increasingly difficult situation, who are entitled to a health as a right and should be central in any response and rehabilitation of our system.
“In all of this we urge the affected local authorities to bring people back into the centre of focus and to involve communities in their deliberations and plans on the way forward. We urge the Multi-Sectoral Ministerial Committee to intervene in a way that addresses our wider public health crisis, including in our public sector health system, and that you involve communities and health civil society in your planning on this,” argued Rusike.
He argues that in the absence of sustainable solutions, the risk of another cholera outbreak such as the one experienced between 2008- 2009 which killed more than 4 000 people while over 100 000 were hospitalised remains high.
“Zimbabwe’s public sector health services have since Independence been a buffer between people and the impoverishing and fatal impacts of ill health caused by such conditions. The massive decline in our public health sector is thus a major crisis for poor people in the country, and leaves people starkly exposed to severe risk.
“The typhoid epidemic that the country is responding to is a sign of this. We are concerned that the same lack of information and silence that concealed the 2008 cholera epidemic in its early stages is also leading to inadequate recognition of other health problems. This depresses an early response to preventing and managing these responses in the community.”
Rusike believes that the current health crisis does not emanate from the health sector but comes from wider economic collapse and the increasing extent to which people are not accessing basic public services like water, a major determinant of health.
“Many urban communities including Harare have gone for weeks and months without adequate water supply in a situation that has now declined over several years, leaving people vulnerable to diseases like typhoid. Our assessments indicate that unsafe environments continue to be a health threat, particularly for poor households mainly in Harare. People in this situation are facing a public health crisis of considerable proportions.
“While we have a significant health infrastructure and a highly literate population, these assets are wasted for health in the context of lack of medicine, equipment, services and staff, leaving public hospitals and clinics non- functional with consequences in preventable loss of life. Again the alarming death toll from typhoid is a warning of wider risks to health and of wider failures to manage these risks.
“The fact that this disease, which has been successfully prevented and managed in past years, is now rampant and highly fatal, is a warning bell of the severity of the problem. We hope that the public health community, and the Ministry of Health and Child Care, will respond to this not only with an emergency response to typhoid, but with a public health response and measure to rescue our public sector health system, especially our primary health care and services,” he further argued.
Since the typhoid outbreak in December, it has been a blame game with the Health and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa blaming the local authority for poor service delivery while City Health Director, Prosper Chonzi believes residents are equally responsible.
“Typhoid is purely caused by poor hygienic practices and, no matter what we do as a ministry, if the issues (erratic water supplies, poor sewer management and infrequent garbage collection) are not addressed we fail,” said Minister Parirenyatwa.
“Issues of personal hygiene should be emphasised and people should practice things like boiling water before drinking and washing their hands after using the toilet or before consuming food,” Dr Chonzi said.