Statement: Bulawayo Water Crisis and the Outbreak of Diarrhoea

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) has noted with great concern the current diarrhoea’ disease outbreak in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo. To date over 1500 suspected cases and 9 deaths have been recorded. The diarrhoea’ disease outbreak has largely been attributed to the serious water crisis facing the City of Bulawayo, particularly in Luveve and surrounding areas. The outbreak compounds an already existing public health crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ZADHR takes note of the outbreak containment measures adopted by the City of Bulawayo in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care in responding to the crisis through the setting up of designated treatment centres for children, adult screening, treatment and resuscitation facilities and the activation of a rapid response team to conduct door-to-door searches of diarrhoea patients.

Whilst we welcome these interventions, we wish to reiterate that responding to crisis alone from time to time is not a panacea to the recurrent water challenges in Bulawayo and other cities in Zimbabwe. There is need for a combination of immediate, short and long-term responses to the ware crisis in all urban centres across Zimbabwe to mitigate unnecessary morbidity and mortality from water borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera and other forms of infectious diseases.

As an urgent mitigatory measure the municipality of Bulawayo must provide clean and safe water through use of bowlers, drilling of boreholes in affected areas and in other areas to respond to the growing crisis. Council must conduct awareness campaigns on water treatment methods for home use such as boiling water and use of home certified treatment chemicals. Further the Council must urgently investigate and identify the pathological cause of the diarrhoea outbreak so as to ensure a targeted response and quicker improved health outcomes. For a more sustained response, ZADHR calls the government to expedite the completion of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project so as to address the perennial water challenges in Bulawayo and the Matabeleland Region.

ZADHR further urges the City of Bulawayo to synergise the response to the diarrhoea outbreak with the existing measures in place to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)