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Glen Norah women protest after disabled child falls into raw sewage
Tererai Karimakwenda, SW Radio Africa
August 22, 2007

The continued failure by Harare city officials to repair the collapsed sewerage systems has created serious health hazards on the streets and residents in the high-density suburbs are beginning to organize local district protests. Precious Shumba from the Combined Harare Residents Association reported that on Tuesday about 30 angry women in Glen Norah descended on the district offices after a disabled child fell into raw sewage and suffered serious injuries. The child was rushed to a local clinic that turned out to be closed. There was no staff because city health personnel are still on strike.

Shumba said the women challenged officials to take action to repair the sewage, shouting that they will no longer sit and watch. In a similar action residents of Dzivarasekwa gathered at their district offices on Wednesday to protest the raw sewage flowing at their railway station and through the streets. Shumba said they gave the officials a 14-day ultimatum to take care of the problem or be prepared to deal with buckets of raw sewage that would be dumped at their offices. 13 residents in the area reported illnesses related to exposure to dirty water and other unhygienic conditions in Dzivarasekwa.

Shumba explained that residents are beginning to take direct action in line with resolutions made at several CHRA sponsored public forums. He added: "This is commendable when you are living in a police state such as we are, where people are being beaten." Residents have complained that the officials do not respond to any queries and refuse to meet with them to discuss crucial issues. He described them as part of "an insensitive regime".

Service delivery in the capital has deteriorated tremendously since the minister of local government removed the elected mayor and council years ago and installed an illegal commission. Corruption, mismanagement and the lack of resources have destroyed many government run institutions.

A statement from CHRA said an unmitigated health disaster is threatening the capital unless the authorities move fast to intervene. It said every high-density suburb the group visited in the last two weeks has "sewerage flowing in almost every two streets, creating fertile environments for the spread of water borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and dysentery, which have now become part of every day talk among residents." According to Shumba, there is already a health disaster in the capital. Many people are complaining of stomach pains and diarrhea.

CHRA said the alarming situation that now exists is due to serious water shortages and a sewerage reticulation system that has all but collapsed. The group has alerted the City of Harare, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Water Resources and Infrastructural Development. But nothing has been done.

CHRA conducted interviews with residents who said their children are falling sick due to unhygienic living conditions. Raw sewage continues to flow through the streets where children play and families go for days without being able to wash their plates. Drinking water is also at risk because it is being stored in containers for long periods of time. CHRA is also deeply concerned because the clinics have no drugs and staff are on strike.

Residents in parts of Budiriro have gone for three weeks without water. CHRA said "ZINWA has done absolutely nothing except to send in exorbitant water bills."

The CHRA statement said: "Other suburbs seriously affected include Glen View, Glen Norah, Highfield, Mbare Flats, Mabvuku, Tafara, Warren Park, Kuwadzana Phase 3 just opposite Dzivarasekwa High One and the rest of Kuwadzana.

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