The corner of Kirkman Road and Sherwood Drive in Mabelreign is the site of an offence clearly committed by someone in the medical profession – almost certainly a doctor. As an advocate and agent for people’s health it might come as a surprise for many that a doctor would be responsible for the dumping of waste that is hazardous to the environment and human health, but a site visit by Harare News revealed a disgusting and dangerous pile of used syringes and other medical waste at this location.
The discovery was first made by local resident Jimmy Muropa, who was prompt in alerting Environmental Management Agency (EMA). Muropa told Harare News that this was not the first time that such hazardous waste had been dumped at this location. The syringes and boxes were tossed into the bushes, not far from the regular police patrol route, so the dumping was likely done when they were not around, in the early hours of the morning or later at night.
EMA were, at first, slow to react. Asked on why there was a delay in their response to such a hazardous crime, EMA spokesperson Steady Kangata said EMA’s position underneath the collateral authority of City of Harare prohibited a quick response. After a closer inspection however it was deemed urgent and action was taken.
“We could see that there was still some medicine in the syringes which is toxic, and the syringes were closer to the river meaning the medicine could flow into the city’s water source”, Kangata told Harare News. He also highlighted the risk of nearby children who might end up playing with the used needles, the consequences of which could be illness, paralysis or even death. With these factors in mind, EMA determined that as an environmental hazard, it was within their jurisdiction and sent workers to clear the area.
An examination of the refuse revealed that although there were no invoices within, the supplier’s branding was still displayed on the boxes, and was identified as New Avakash International operating from Msasa. EMA representative Alletta Shoko followed up with the company to try and get answers, but was told that with a distribution network of 84 clinics, pharmacies and doctors surgeries, it was impossible to identify the culprit.
New Avakash International employee, Stan Muengwa from the disposal department, had this to say: “We do not know who did this, nor have we ever improperly disposed of our damaged or expired products. We respect the environment.”
The Health Professions Authority (HPA) of Zimbabwe is responsible for the control of medical waste disposal. All medical practitioners and dispensaries are required to submit a letter confirming a disposal agreement with professional incinerators who are qualified to dispose of such hazardous waste. HPA Public Relations Officer, Linda Nkala, told Harare News that “if it’s a small clinic or a doctor practising single handedly, they can make arrangements with a bigger hospital to incinerate as one body, thereby bringing down the cost.” She added that if found to be unregistered, the doctor responsible for the Kirkman Road hazard could face legal proceedings and likely be shut down.
For now at least, the area is clear and safe again for the children of Mabelreign. Concerned residents such as Jimmy Muropa do well to report and follow up on such incidences, since without such action cleanup and investigation will not happen. For the sake of the Mabelreign community, Muropa and others hope that the doctor responsible is eventually caught and suspended for his actions.