By Wallace Mawire
The Civil Society Health Emergency Response Coordinating Committee (CSHERCC) in Zimbabwe reports that it is saddened to learn of the unnecessary deaths of several people across the country, who have recently succumbed to the devastating effects of cholera.
So far, it has been reported that at least 25 people have fallen victim to the cholera outbreak in several parts of the country in particular in Harare, while dozens of people have been hospitalised since 6 September 2018 when the first cases were publicly announced. Several people have also been affected by the outbreak of typhoid.
CSHERCC is saddened that the ongoing deaths, which are a result of official and criminal negligence, have brought despair to the affected families and communities and the nation at large.
“It is alarming and quite unusual for such a medieval and preventable disease to continue to claim such valuable lives in this day and age. The outbreak of cholera is not a new phenomenon with outbreaks
repetitively recorded in past years resulting in unnecessary deaths and serious illnesses of thousands of people at given times”CSHERCC says.
It adds that it is not acceptable that any cases of outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases be recorded anywhere in the country.
“If at least 20 people have died from cholera in just less than a month, many more are at the risk of contracting, this avoidable disease”.
The CSOs say that government must understand that human health and quality of life is at the centre of international efforts to develop sustainable communities and countries.
“Good health throughout the lifetime of every woman, man and child is fundamental to full participation in the social, economic and political processes of the communities and country”.
CSHERCC has reminded government that human rights relating to health are provided in the Constitution and human rights instruments the government is state party to.
Further, the Zimbabwean Constitution places an obligation on the state to guarantee the rights of persons to a clean environment (section 73), the right to healthcare (section 76) and the right to safe, clean and potable water (section 77). Government must uphold its obligations in the Constitution.
Members of the CSHERCC are particularly alarmed, that sewage reticulation, lack of access to potable water, continue to be the cause of outbreak of waterborne diseases.
The Government of Zimbabwe must respect these social rights as provided in regional and international human rights instruments it is state party to such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Failure by government to guarantee the right to health is a serious violation of both local and international law. Equally, local authorities have a duty to account for all the funds that they charge ratepayers for water and sewerage in order to progressively contribute towards the realisation of the right to health and water.
CSHERCC says that it holds government, and through it the local authorities and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), accountable for the deaths of people as they have failed to provide basic health services, medical treatment and services, clean running water and sanitary surrounds to people so as to adequately respond to and contain the spread of the waterborne disease.
“The failure by government to swiftly respond to the cholera epidemic is an unacceptable failure of leadership and represents a clear failure on the part of government to uphold its constitutional obligations as provided in the Constitution and other regional and international instruments”.
CSHERCC has therefore recommended in the short term, and more long term, the immediate implementation of a sustainable plan to prevent recurrences in future by Government as follows:
1. The Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Lands,Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, all Municipal Authorities work collaboratively and swiftly together with communities, non-state actors and take corrective measures to prevent further deaths from cholera, contain the epidemic, and prevent further outbreaks;
2. Ministry of Health and Child Care and Local Authorities urgently provide all affected people with rapid free medical assistance and treatment
3. Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing collaborate with Local Authorities to provide clean running water and sanitary environs to all affected communities and others at risk of infection to halt the spread of the deadly disease.
4. Ministry of Finance increases budget allocation on water, sanitation and hygiene to achieve 15% allocation to health as provided in the Abuja Declaration to enhance the quality of life of citizens. rights obligations in the Constitution and guarantee progressive realisation of the right to a clean environment that is not harmful, the right to healthcare, and the right to safe, clean and potable water for everyone.
6. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission swiftly investigates this flagrant violation of people’s fundamental right to life, health and clean water and ensure that there is substantial compliance by local authorities.
7. Government must set up an inclusive task force that looks into the recurrence of a preventable disease such as Cholera and formulate preventive strategies for non-recurrence in the future including of other water borne diseases like typhoid and ensure adequate sewage reticulation.
Citizens Health Watch
Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association
Community Water Alliance
Combined Harare Residents Association
Community Working Group on Health
Harare Residents Trust
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights