Harare residents have given the local authority a five-day deadline to address the water shortages in several densely populated areas. This comes as a cholera outbreak has caused the deaths of over 100 people and infected thousands nationwide.

The Ministry of Health’s report shows that Manicaland has the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by Matabeleland South and Harare.

In Harare, where cholera is now widespread, residents suffer from days without clean water, facilitating the spread of the waterborne disease. Through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Kelvin Kabaya, residents are demanding the restoration of water supplies to prevent the further spread of the disease. Read a statement issued by ZLHR:

"In Harare, residents have given Harare City Council (CoH) a 5-day ultimatum to end perennial water shortages in several high-density suburbs & help avert the outbreak of cholera & other water-borne diseases.

(Combined Harare Residents Association) Chra & Marian Chatambira, a resident of Dzivarasekwa suburb in Harare, engaged Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Kelvin Kabaya of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who on Friday wrote a letter to the Director of Works at City of Harare (CoH) asking the local authority to restore water supplies to residents in 4 high-density suburbs of Dzivarasekwa, Budiriro, Glenview & Mabvuku, which have gone for several years without adequate & constant supply of safe & potable running water.

Through the letter, Chinopfukutwa & Kabaya complained that residents living in these suburbs have been experiencing severe problems in accessing running & potable water from their taps & had been forced to resort to fetching water for consumption & daily use from shallow wells & do not know whether the water from the underground wells is safe for consumption or not.

The residents, Chinopfukutwa & Kabaya said, fear that the lack of running potable tap water places them at the risk of contracting the cholera disease particularly at this point in time, where there is a cholera outbreak in the capital city. The human rights lawyers said the exposure to the likelihood of contracting diseases is a violation of the residents’ right to a safe & healthy environment as guaranteed in terms of section 73(1) of the Constitution.

CoH, Chinopfukutwa & Kabaya said, has failed to achieve progressive realisation of the right to safe, clean & potable water for residents of Harare, which is guaranteed in section 77 of the Constitution. To stop the violation of the residents’ right to water & healthcare, the human rights lawyers then gave CoH a 5-day ultimatum to restore adequate & constant supply of safe, potable running tap water in Dzivarasekwa, Budiriro, Glen View & Mabvuku high-density suburbs including supplying bowsers with safe & potable water in these areas.

Chinopfukutwa & Kabaya also asked CoH to furnish them with the local authority’s water policy & a plan on how it intends to rectify the perennial water shortages in the capital city. Failure to comply with their demand, the lawyers said, would leave them with no option but to institute legal proceedings to obtain appropriate relief in court."

During the 2008 cholera outbreak, Harare, the capital city, was heavily affected with over 4,000 fatalities and around 100,000 people affected.

Despite ongoing water challenges faced by residents, the council’s epidemiology and disease control officer, Michael Vere, stated that progress is being made in raising awareness and preventing cholera. While the issue of water provision falls outside their mandate, Vere mentioned efforts to treat water at nearby boreholes in affected areas to provide clean and safe water to the people. Vere told NewsDay:

"We are also intensifying health promotion activities, doing door-to-door campaigns. We are helping in supplying water bowsers daily to places like Southlands, Stoneridge and Hopley where we give daily supplies."

Vere emphasised the need for long-term solutions to address the water challenges in Harare. He highlighted that relying on water from Lake Chivero, which is heavily polluted, requires extensive chemical treatment and makes the water expensive. He suggested the exploration of alternative water sources to alleviate the city’s water issues.

Cholera is a severe disease caused by contaminated water and poor hygiene. It can be prevented by having clean water, proper sanitation, and practising good hygiene. If left untreated, cholera can be deadly within a few hours. The current outbreak started in Buhera district, Manicaland province, and has now spread to various areas including Buhera, Chegutu, Chikomba, Chimanimani, Chipinge, Chitungwiza, Chiredzi, Harare, Gokwe North, Marondera, Mazowe, Shamva, Mutare, Murehwa, Mwenezi, Seke, and Wedza.