By Nqobile Tshili
Bulawayo has recorded a second diarrhoea outbreak within four months as almost 100 cases mainly affecting children have been reported in the densely populated high-density suburb of Mzilikazi and surrounding areas.
In June, a diarrhoea outbreak was recorded in Luveve and nearby areas killing 13 and infecting nearly 2 000 people.
The first case in the latest outbreak was reported on September 26 and has been linked to the prevailing water crisis.
Bulawayo is experiencing an acute water shortage which has resulted in the Bulawayo City Council providing water to only a few suburbs within 12 hours per day in a week.
The outbreak follows Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri’s report tabled before Parliament last week that stated Bulawayo is among six local authorities at risk of outbreak of water-borne diseases that could lead to deaths due to failure to manage sewer reticulation systems.
Bulawayo health services director Dr Edwin Sibanda confirmed the diarrhoea outbreak, but said no deaths were recorded.
“The areas that have been affected include areas surrounding Mzilikazi Clinic, Makokoba and Nguboyenja. I cannot give the exact numbers of the reported cases as I am in a meeting.
“However, on Tuesday we saw 29 cases but as of Saturday we had seen about 60 people. We have been following up since the previous Saturday (September 26). That is when it was observed,” said Dr Sibanda.
“We received a voice note (on WhatsApp) from someone claiming that there was an outbreak of diarrhoea. We responded by going to the ground and there were people with symptoms of diarrhoea in the areas.”
He said council is yet to establish what caused the outbreak and samples have been taken to various laboratories for testing.
“We are waiting for the results and that is when we are going to an get an idea how it could have started. We think its lack of water, more than anything that caused that (outbreak).
“You’ll realise that Mzilikazi and Makokoba had been spared from water cuts. But of late they have been affected and shortage of water could have contributed to it (the outbreak). But we are yet to verify the positive organism,” he said.
Dr Sibanda said cases reported in the Mzilikazi area are not as severe as those that were reported in Luveve.
He said residents should take advantage of the clinic waiver fees that council imposed on diarrhoea cases.
“One or two are very sick requiring admission at hospitals but by and large most of them are moving despite contracting diarrhoea. Those affected are largely below the age of five.
“But you will recall that council resolved to waive payment of consultation fees for diarrhoea cases in our clinics across the city until the water shedding programme is over.
“So, we have reminded them that they should go to the clinic as soon as they develop any diarrhoeal symptoms and do so for free and there is a tent that has been mounted at the clinic to attend to such people,” he said.
Dr Sibanda encouraged residents to exercise extreme hygiene and avoid drinking water that is not boiled, especially if it is not tap water.
The council recently said even borehole water needs to be boiled.
“Some of these people within Mzilikazi Clinic area declared that they did not boil the water. As long as you don’t treat the water which you don’t get from taps, you can’t guarantee its potability,” said Dr Sibanda.
When Luveve was hit by the diarrhoea outbreak, council suspended water shedding in the suburb as part of measures to contain the disease.
Meanwhile, the Auditor-General said persistent bursting of sewerage pipes could result in outbreak of fatal diseases.
“Due to failure by the urban local authorities to attend to blockages within the stipulated eight to 24 hours, raw sewage is lost into the environment before reaching the treatment plants thereby contaminating water bodies.
“The raw sewage flowing on the ground will mix with potable water thereby resulting in water-borne diseases. Furthermore, delays in repair of sewer blockage/chokes will result in backflow of sewage increasing pressure on inlet pipes and joints or weaker points will give in to pressure thereby causing further blockages,” said the Auditor-General. The Chronicle