Saturday, September 20, 2008

Health Crisis - Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights

Urgent Action Needed to Address Water Shortages and Breakdown in Sanitation
19 September 2008
A serious health crisis currently looms over Zimbabwe's urban areas due to a severe shortage of running water in most areas. The Zimbabwe National Water Authority's (ZINWA) failure to treat and pump adequate supplies of water has left most urban homes dry and forced residents to rely on unsafe supplies of water. This coupled with a breakdown in the sanitation system (burst sewage pipes and lack of refuse collection and proper disposal) is threatening the health of millions on Zimbabweans.
The new Government must address this crisis as a matter of urgency. It is a matter which cannot wait for resolution of differences or 'sticking points'. Public service provision has been inadequate for several years and requires urgent and comprehensive remedial action.
Access to safe drinking water and to adequate sanitation are human rights and not privileges of the Zimbabwean population. They are determinants of health which if not made available can result in outbreaks of diarrhoea, cholera and dysentery that are life threatening. Lives have already been lost to cholera in Chitungwiza and health centres in Harare and Bulawayo are burdened by numerous cases of diarrhoea on a daily basis. It is highly likely that the number of deaths in Chitungwiza, currently reported at 12 individuals, is much higher, and that this is but the tip of an iceberg of much more morbidity. This has not been communicated to the public.
Outbreaks of cholera at any time are symptomatic of serious structural problems within the system of public works. They are more common when rains have resulted in flooding or overload of drainage systems. An outbreak in the middle of the dry season is particularly disturbing.

The public has a right to be fully informed and updated on:
(1) what measures are being taken to address the water and sanitation crisis and
(2) what measures are in place to prevent and manage outbreaks of disease.
It is not adequate for the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to respond to disease outbreak only after it has occurred. It is paramount that it works in conjunction with other ministries concerned, such as that responsible for water resources, and ZINWA, to ensure that disease is prevented and that Zimbabwean's right to the highest attainable state of physical and mental wellbeing is respected.
ZADHR calls for an urgent, coordinated and comprehensive response from the new Government to this crisis in water and sanitation.

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