Last month City of Harare (CoH) announced a schedule of severe water cuts that will result in residents experiencing greater water shortages until June amid fears of an outbreak of typhoid and dysentery.
The planned cuts are due to the on-going rehabilitation of Morton Jaffray water works and will mostly affect the western suburbs. Council has been rehabilitating its major water treatment facilities since 2013 using a $144 million loan from Exim Bank, China.
The rehabilitation of Morton Jaffray is expected to increase the plant’s production capacity from the current average of 400 million litres per day to its full capacity of 614 million litres. Council has so far used more than half of the $144 million on maintenance of the plant’s infrastructure, the purchase of new equipment such as pumps, valves, and on the controversial purchase of project vehicles. Council is also using part of the loan to rehabilitate Prince Edward water works as well as its waste water treatment plants.
Michael Chideme, CoH’s Principal Communications Officer said that the planned shutdowns will only be partial and that residents will not experience severe water shortages during this period.
“We had one complete shutdown of Morton Jaffray that affected the whole city. Going forward, the shutdowns are only going to be partial. This means there is still going to be production of water at Morton Jaffray and we will be supplying water on a demand-rotational management system,” explained Chideme.
Chideme also said that council plans to complete the rehabilitation of Morton Jaffray in 2017 but said that residents should expect major improvements in water supply by the end of this year.
“We understand that there have been 15 confirmed cases of typhoid and we have since embarked on awareness campaigns to educate residents on how to avoid infection. But we will make sure that water is available to avoid further spread of the disease,” said Chideme.
Residents however remain unconvinced that council’s efforts will lead to the regular provision of drinkable water. Sharon Magodyo, community coordinator of the Harare Residents Trust’s (HRT) said that residents were concerned with the severe water cut schedule announced by the council without preparations or measures put in place for residents to access potable water.
“This shows that the Harare City Council is inconsiderate of the well-being of residents … A number of typhoid cases have been reported in Highfield, Budiriro, Glen Norah, Hopley and Hatfield due to water shortages and poor sanitation,” said Magodyo.
As of Thursday March 9th, there have been 38 confirmed cases of typhoid and one death in Harare.
Magodyo added that the announced water cuts will worsen residents’ water problems as communal boreholes are few. At the same time, most of the community boreholes are not functioning.
Magodyo said that it is vital for Harare to avoid a full outbreak of this water-borne disease. “HRT urges residents to continue basic hygiene practices such as washing hands before meals, eating food while it is hot and treating all domestic water to avoid typhoid. We also ask that council prioritizes the repair of broken community boreholes so that residents can get clean and safe water.”
Image: People waiting to get water at a community borehole.