July 18, 2007

City warns of health risk as it cuts water

Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, has warned residents to guard against outbreaks of disease as it was forced to cut their water supply. Authorities said they had decommissioned one of Bulawayo's three remaining dams because water levels were too low, leaving in operation only two of the five dams that supply the southern city of about one million people. Bulawayo has faced water problems before but this is the first time it has had to issue a health warning and officials said the water shortage was likely to get worse. "The city council is aware that water cuts may result in the outbreak of diseases and we wish to advise members of the public to take preventive measures," Bulawayo spokesman Pathisa Nyathi was quoted by the state-owned Chronicle newspaper as saying. "Water will be available for seven hours in every two days and during that time people are advised to fill their containers and cover them up," Nyathi said.
In June, more than 20 children have died from a diarrhoea outbreak in a Zimbabwe mining town over a two-week period after drinking suspected contaminated water, official media reported. Urban areas in Zimbabwe are struggling to provide services due to ageing infrastructure, including burst sewer pipes, and because foreign currency shortages have hampered imports of raw materials such as water treatment chemicals. Earlier in 2007 several people contracted cholera in two Harare townships after drinking contaminated water from shallow wells due to a breakdown in municipal services.
Unreliable water supply has been a bone of contention between the City Council and Central government which fulfilled its promises to massively invest in creating new water supply infrastructure for Bulawayo which is politically dominated by the opposition. (-)

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