Farai Mutsaka, AP, September 24, 2019
Tempers flared on Tuesday as more than 2 million residents of Zimbabwe’s capital and surrounding towns found themselves without water after authorities shut down the main treatment plant, raising new fears about disease after a cholera outbreak while the economy crumbles even more.
Officials in Harare have struggled to raise foreign currency to import water treatment chemicals; about $2.7 million is needed per month. Meanwhile, water levels in polluted reservoirs are dropping because of drought.
Everyone living in Harare is affected, City Council spokesman Michael Chideme said, as residents turned to other options such as bottled water. He called it a dangerous situation because of the risk of water-borne diseases.
At the Chivero reservoir, the city’s main water supply, plastic bottles, vehicle tires and algae floated in the shallow water which was green and emitted a choking, foul smell.
Zimbabwe’s capital now frequently records cases of diseases such as typhoid due to water shortages and dilapidated sewer infrastructure. Some residents for months have been forced to get water from shallow, unsafe wells and defecate in the open, while children pick their way across fetid yards.
The AP earlier this month watched some residents pump water then wait a half-hour for enough water to seep into a well to pump again.
“Nothing is working in this country, how do we survive?” Hatineyi Kamwanda, another resident, said. “We can’t even use the toilets, the children are not going to school because of this and now we fear cholera is going to hit us again.
Zimbabwe once was a bright spot in southern Africa and a regional breadbasket but the economy has collapsed in recent years, and foreign currency is hard to come by. Prices for many basic items continue to rise, and the public health care system falters as some doctors and others say they can hardly afford the commute to work.
As services largely collapse, many Harare residents in recent months have found themselves lining up at wells in the middle of the night for water or lighting their homes by candle or mobile phone.