Emergency preparedness in the city of Harare is set to improve as council engages more players in case of major disasters occurring in the capital. Currently having a population of between 2,5 and 3 million people, Harare has been living in perpetual fear of major disaster, such as the 2008 cholera pandemic which claimed 4,000 lives.
Councillor Chris Mbanga, Chairperson of the Health and Environment Committee, notes that the city has partnered with a number of local and international organisations and local authorities to make sure that Harare’s safety standards conform to international ones.
“We consider the safety of our residents and property as a priority, and this particular section is mandatory. The safety of Harare should not be compromised. The City of Harare (CoH) is part of the Harare province Disaster Management Committee under the Civil Protection Authority. This committee is very well prepared for any emergency in Harare, and can be assembled very quickly. All ambulances in Harare give priority to any call from this body,” said Mbanga. Mbanga told Harare News that council has increased the number of expert staff in the fire, traffic, and health services department to meet this challenge.
Concerns have often been raised that City’s ambulance fleet is mostly grounded due to shortages of fuel and spares, paralysing the provision of emergency services. A spate of fires have ravaged buildings in the city, and the fire department has been blamed for failing to save the situation, often arriving without water if they turn up at all.
According to the City Corporate Communication Department, 12 fire tenders have been donated, and are stationed at various centres in the suburbs of Greendale, Kuwadzana and Waterfalls, and at the City’s Central Fire Station. The acquiring of two vehicle lifters and the secondment of an ambulance fleet from the ministry of Health and Child Welfare has improved the capacity of the city to cope with a disaster of a severe magnitude. “We still need more equipment and professional expertise to make sure we can take on any kind of disaster,” said Michael Chideme, CoH corporate communications spokesperson.
Council has also been blamed for being ill equipped to deal with disease outbreaks such typhoid and cholera, which have been caused by its failure to find a lasting solution to the water problem. According to council figures 50 cases of typhoid are being reported daily and more than 1500 people have been treated.
Doctor Prosper Chonzi of City Health Services says that Council operates health facilities in almost every suburb in the city, “While services may differ per facility, our health care covers family health, primary care, ante natal and post natal care, opportunistic diseases and dental services. We are establishing health committees at all health centres as a way of entrusting health delivery to the recipient communities. We want the residents to take charge of their health needs through active participation. Harare will continue being responsive to the needs of the residents. It is at such platforms that we are also able gauge public sentiment and respond accordingly.”