Gokwe residents living in constant fear of cholera outbreak

Ephraim Munhuwei

The residents of Gokwe are currently living in a state of fear and apprehension, as they face the looming threat of a cholera outbreak. The dire situation can be attributed to poor sanitation practices, a lack of running water, and the absence of public toilets.

During the recent budget consultation meetings held by the Gokwe Town Council, various groups, including vendors, residents’ associations, politicians, and business entities, voiced their concerns regarding the unhygienic conditions that put them at risk of contracting cholera, which has been rapidly spreading in Zimbabwe.

Vendors particularly expressed their dissatisfaction with individuals who prepare and cook Sadza (a traditional maize meal) in public areas, as they tend to dispose of dirty water indiscriminately, attracting an influx of houseflies. These vendors vehemently condemned the local council and healthcare groups for their inaction in removing these individuals from illegal spaces.

“Why is the council failing to take action against those who cook Sadza in unauthorized locations? We firmly believe that people should only consume food prepared in enclosed spaces, efficiently monitored by the council and healthcare officials to prevent the spread of cholera and diarrhea. Urgent action must be taken by the council,” voiced Mai Taku, a concerned vendor.

Furthermore, the absence of proper toilet facilities in Gokwe Town has exacerbated the situation, with residents resorting to using make-shift bush toilets. For instance, at Chimusoro Old Flea Market, there are no toilets available, forcing people to utilize the nearby bushes or even the ZESA bush, posing risks of robbery and assault.

Similarly, in the heart of the town near the Choppies area, a pressing issue arises as there is a complete lack of toilet facilities. Consequently, individuals are compelled to use bush toilets located behind the filling station, further endangering their safety and well-being.

The residents of Gokwe appeal to the relevant authorities and the concerned stakeholders to urgently address the sanitation challenges faced by the community. By taking immediate action to improve sanitation conditions, provide running water, and establish proper toilet facilities, the authorities can prevent a potential cholera outbreak and ensure the safety and well-being of the residents.

It is crucial that swift measures are taken to address these pressing issues before the health and lives of Gokwe residents are further compromised by the imminent threat of cholera. “Even in the Rank area, where people gather and commute, there is a severe lack of proper toilet facilities. While there is a pay toilet available, the sheer number of people in the Rank makes it impractical for everyone to use it. As a result, people are forced to relieve themselves wherever they can, including against the ZUPCO wall,” said Chihera, expressing her frustration.

“In addition to the lack of proper toilets, there is also a dire shortage of drinking water and handwashing facilities in all of these places. This means that people are unable to maintain basic hygiene practices such as washing their hands before eating. It’s a serious health risk, and the Council needs to take immediate action. We cannot risk losing our lives and the lives of our loved ones,” Chihera passionately added.

Addressing the concerns raised, Town Council Acting Secretary Alexander Nyandoro assured the residents that the council would take immediate measures to address all the complaints. He emphasized that the engineering team would focus on resolving the pressing issues in the affected areas.

“We have taken note of all the issues raised by the residents, and we are committed to finding a solution. Our engineering team will prioritize the areas of concern and work promptly to provide proper toilet facilities and access to clean drinking water. We understand the urgency of the matter and will act swiftly to ensure the safety and well-being of the community,” stated Acting Secretary Alexander Nyandoro.

Residents are hopeful that with the council’s assurance of action, their concerns will be addressed promptly. They continue to urge the municipal authorities to prioritize the provision of sanitation facilities and safe drinking water to prevent the potential outbreak of diseases and safeguard their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

In response to the ongoing issue of inadequate toilets in the Rank, Nyandoro provided an update, stating that notable efforts are being made to address the situation. He revealed that the council is currently in the process of constructing another toilet facility, which is already halfway complete. This additional toilet will supplement the existing pay toilet and alleviate the strain caused by the high volume of people utilizing the Rank.

Moreover, Nyandoro emphasised that certain members including those at the flea market vendors, cookers, and tire sellers, are not authorised to conduct their businesses within the Rank area. He urged them to relocate to their designated areas to reduce overcrowding and minimise litter, with the aim of preventing a potential cholera outbreak.

In light of the escalating cholera outbreak across Zimbabwe, with the Buhera district being the epicenter of the present outbreak, Health expert Doctor Misheck Ruwende provided valuable insights on the nature of cholera transmission and symptoms.

“Cholera is mainly transmitted when contaminated food or water, containing the cholera bacteria, is ingested. While some may experience mild symptoms or be asymptomatic, others could exhibit severe, life-threatening symptoms. These include profuse watery diarrhea often described as ‘rice-water stools,’ vomiting, increased thirst, leg cramps, restlessness, and irritability. It is crucial that anyone displaying severe symptoms seek immediate medical attention,” explained Doctor Ruwende.

He further advised individuals, while in transit to healthcare facilities, to ensure that the patient consumes a homemade oral rehydration solution, prepared with six teaspoons of sugar and half a level teaspoon of salt dissolved in one liter of boiled or treated water.

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