127 Boreholes closed in Harare as human waste is detected
By Mercy Jemwa
Harare City Council has temporarily decommissioned 15 boreholes that were contaminated with faecal matter and are believed to be the source of typhoid cases reported in three suburbs.
Tests on water samples taken from 127 boreholes in Glen Norah, Mbare and Budiriro were found to contain significant traces of E. coli bacteria, indicating the presence of human waste.
City health authorities are monitoring 72 suspected typhoid cases, with about 20 others having already been confirmed.
This comes as Harare is also grappling with hundreds of cases of diarrhoea that have been reported since October last year, with the case-load surging since the onset of the rains.
Experts attributed the spike in water-borne diseases in the capital to the city’s failure to provide clean running water, collect refuse and attend to burst sewer pipes.
While adults can recover from an E. coli infection within a week, children and older adults have a greater risk of developing a life-threatening form of kidney failure.
The latest development has raised fears of a cholera outbreak after cases of the disease were recorded in Zambia and Malawi.
This has prompted Government to activate its cholera surveillance system, with the authorities dispatching medical supplies used in managing cholera to health centres in suburbs considered hotspots.
City epidemiology and disease control officer Dr Michael Vere said the contaminated boreholes had been linked to the surge in suspected typhoid cases.
“We have tested several boreholes in Harare — a total of 127 — and we discovered that seven boreholes were contaminated with faecal matter in Glen Norah and eight boreholes in Mbare,” he said.
“We temporarily closed these boreholes and installed in-line chlorinators; these are devices that contain chlorine, which kills all the bacteria in the water to make it safe for use.
“These boreholes could have been the source of typhoid infection.”
The city authorities, he said, plan to increase potable water pumped into areas where boreholes have been decommissioned.
“We are working with our Water Department so that affected suburbs get water supplies,” he added.
“Our health department has recorded 92 cases of suspected typhoid, of which about 20 have been confirmed.
“From January 1, we recorded a total of nine cases.
“We have seven cases from Glen Norah and two other cases — one each in Highfield and Ushewokunze.
“We continued to record increasing number of cases in Glen Norah and this prompted us to investigate the source of the outbreak.”
Apart from contaminated water sources, typhoid can be spread through contact with an infected person.
Meanwhile, Government has heightened its cholera surveillance, especially in the wake of reported cases in the region.
Ministry Health and Child Care spokesperson Mr Donald Mujiri said Government has updated its cholera and typhoid control guidelines.
“Teams are activated and responding to all alerts from the hotspots using an updated cholera operational plan,” he said.
“We have also trained these teams to respond to cholera and typhoid,” he said, adding that messaging and health education was ongoing in cholera hotspots, with emphasis on the use of safe water and handwashing.