THREE children in Bulawayo’s Luveve suburb have reportedly died from diarrhoea complications with their families alleging that it was linked to dirty and unsafe water pumped by the city council.
The shocking allegations come as more residents from the area have complained of diarrhoea after taking the water which comes out once a week following a six-day water rationing regime implemented by the council to save dwindling water levels.
Yesterday residents told Sunday News that water that has been coming out of the taps whenever the city council restored supplies was dirty and allegedly causing diarrhoea problems. The children who reportedly died are Freedom Tshuma (13), Bongiwe Ndlovu (9) and an unidentified Form Four pupil after they complained of stomach illness that resulted in severe diarrhoea. Freedom’s aunt, Ms Patricia Tshuma said they were informed on Tuesday by his mother that he was not feeling well and had been admitted to Mpilo Central Hospital and he passed away on Thursday afternoon.
“We are in great pain and shock that we can get sick from tap water as we had all along thought it is a trusted source. The water seems to have particles that look like tissues. Most of us are sick because of the dirty water and already there are three funerals because of this. We are appealing to the authorities to seriously look into the issue and fix the water,” she said at the family house where mourners were gathered.
“As it is, we need $4 900 for us to take the body to a funeral parlour and it is money that we do not have,” she said.
Freedom’s cousin Mr Bitwell Mguni said he was also experiencing stomach pains.
“I have been sick for one week with severe stomach pains and I’m struggling to eat and have been taking only a sugar and salt solution. When I eat, I feel like vomiting. The stomach pains are causing me sleepless nights.”
Bongiwe’s aunt, Ms Veronica Dube said the whole family experienced diarrhoea a fortnight ago which they believe was caused by tap water as most residents in Luveve were also complaining of the similar illness. She said Bongiwe seemed to recover after the initial bout of diarrhoea but on Wednesday last week she got worse and was ferried to Luveve Clinic before she was transferred to Mpilo where she died on Friday.
“We experienced stomach problems but they eased only for Bongiwe to get worse on Wednesday and she never recovered. The particles in the water are not visible but can be seen when you let the water settle. Most people in the neighbourhood have been complaining of diarrhoea and it seems to be affecting children more,” she said.
Bulawayo City Council Health Services director Dr Edwin Sibanda said following complaints from residents they had collected water samples from the area and swabs from residents that had diarrhoea and sent them to the laboratory for testing and were awaiting the results.
“We also collected swabs from those that had been admitted to Mpilo Hospital and the results are yet to come. Once the results are out, we will make an announcement. We cannot exactly state what the problem is but we urge residents to boil water before use,” he said.
However, in a statement issued on Friday, the city council said samples were taken from water, used for potable use, in containers (buckets) in the households returned with unsatisfactory results indicating bacterial presence while samples collected from municipal sampling points in the same area had satisfactory water quality.
“Rectal swabs were also taken and sent to the laboratory and nothing was detected in terms of notifiable diseases such as cholera and typhoid. We have teams on the ground that are currently investigating the source of the diarrhoea outbreak,” read the statement.
Meanwhile, as the water situation in the city worsens it has emerged that property owners with boreholes are now in the business of selling water. A survey by this publication revealed that people with boreholes were charging as much as US$20 for a 1 000 litre tank.
As the water situation in the city worsens it has emerged that property owners with boreholes are now in the business of selling water.
However, this has seen the rise of illegal borehole drilling with some unscrupulous individuals not following the required regulations for borehole drilling.
According to the Bulawayo City Council’s by-laws the minimum size of land where a borehole should be drilled is 425 square metres and above. All boreholes drilled in the city should be drilled with the consent of the council. Responding to e-mailed questions, the local authority’s senior public relations officer, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said while she could not comment on the charging of water in foreign currency, council has permitted the sale of water only for gardening and construction purposes.
“The sale of borehole water has been permitted for some registered companies in Bulawayo for non-potable use such as gardening and construction. This is because the use of municipal water is not permitted for these activities. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement may advise on the use of foreign currency for the water. The registration of boreholes is as per the Water Act and the National Water Policy. This is because all (underground) water in Zimbabwe belongs to the State. All clients who have drilled unregistered boreholes are requested to regularise them,” said Mrs Mpofu.
Sunday News spoke to a number of borehole water traders who said they decided to sell the water after noting the crisis the city was going through.
“All that I am doing is selling off the extra water which I have from my borehole. It’s not like I started overnight doing this, people have been approaching me to purchase the water, mainly for construction purposes. It is only now that people are also using this same water for domestic use but we always encourage them to boil the water before use for their own safety,” said a trader who identified himself as Mr Moyo.
— Sunday News