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Raw sewage in streets: Cholera is Zimbabwe’s latest crisis



raw sewage in harare
Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP

Raw sewage in Harare flows freely in some streets, posing a deadly challenge to the recently elected president who has promised the troubled country a new dawn.

A cholera outbreak has killed more than 30 people and sickened more than 7,000 as it spreads beyond Harare, posing the latest crisis for a government that pledges, somehow, to turn a collapsed economy into a middle-class one by 2030.

The signs are not encouraging. Inflation has spiked. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took office after the fall of longtime leader Robert Mugabe and for a while sent hopes soaring, now spends his time vowing to fight a “medieval” disease.


As many residents of Harare hop-skip over fetid puddles, many are reminded of the outbreak a decade ago that killed over 4,000 people. Now water and sanitation are largely worse than before.

As the outbreak spreads beyond Harare, Zimbabweans see it as the new government’s first big test after a bitterly disputed election.


“It is by God’s grace that we have not yet been infected,” the 66-year-old Elizabeth Limamu told The Associated Press. She has lined a path of stones from the street to her home to avoid stepping in sewage that has pooled next to her yard. Children, some barefoot, play next to it.

“I lock my children inside. It is not safe out here,” said Tinotenda Kwitsa, a neighbour.

While some in Harare dig trenches to divert the flow, others cannot avoid the sewage that has crept into homes. Noisy school children in the uniform swarm the streets, seemingly oblivious to the risky conditions.

In the suburb of Budiriro, one resident laughed at radio announcements advising people to wash their hands with running tap water.

“These taps have been dry for months. When it comes, the water has a brown colour and it smells,” Norman Marambe said. Some residents have resorted to drilling boreholes or digging shallow wells and then locking them.

“Thieves steal both the water and taps if we don’t lock the taps,” said 61-year-old Anatolia Chivanga.

The financially struggling government has launched a $57 million appeal amid some backlash. Some local non-governmental organizations are holding the government accountable for the cholera deaths.

“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,” said the Civil Society Health Emergency Response Coordinating Committee.

A crowd-funding initiative by new Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has swelled public anger, with some questioning why a government that splashes on new cars and private jets should ask impoverished citizens to chip in.

On Wednesday, the minister said the government had suspended the purchases of cars for ministers and lawmakers to focus on the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the president, who previously hired private planes for foreign travel, took Zimbabwe’s state carrier to the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders.

Quick intervention by donors and the government could help Zimbabwe avoid a repeat of the 2008 disaster but they agree risks remain if long-term measures aren’t taken to replace ageing infrastructure and cater to a growing urban population.

Corruption, another challenge, has flourished amid the crisis.

The Harare City Council said it suspended several officials after billionaire telecommunications businessman Strive Masiyiwa wrote on Facebook that officials had inflated prices after his firm donated $10 million to buy medicine and other health materials.

“Gloves worth $3 were suddenly worth $65,” Masiyiwa said.

In his first state of the nation address since the election, Mnangagwa this week vowed to take on the corruption that has hollowed out this once-prosperous country.

Other crises facing his administration are piling up like the garbage in Harare’s streets.

With factories resembling scrapyards, Zimbabwe has to import most basic items. Foreign currency shortages have led to a booming black market where exchange rates are skyrocketing.

Prices of basic items such as bread are climbing. Long lines at banks remain.

Widespread unemployment has forced some to ignore cholera warnings. For days, police have battled to clear Harare’s streets of thousands of people hustling as vendors, saying it will help reduce the spread of the disease.

Some now play cat-and-mouse with police, wary of arrests and confiscations. Others have taken to vending at night to avoid raids.

“They want to save me from cholera, but what about my hunger?” asked one vendor, Yemurai Chimuka. “My family cannot survive if I don’t come to the streets. There are no jobs out there, yet prices are rising.”

San Francisco Chronicle.


Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies




Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

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US buys nearly all of Gilead’s Covid-19 drug Remdesivir



Remdesivir Covid 19

The US is buying nearly all the next three months’ projected production of Covid-19 treatment Remdesivir from US manufacturer Gilead.

The US health department announced on Tuesday it had agreed to buy 500,000 doses for use in American hospitals. Tests suggest Remdesivir cuts recovery times, though it is not yet clear if it improves survival rates.

Gilead did sign a licensing deal in May for production outside the US but it is still in its early stages.

“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. A course of treatment in the US will cost $2,340 (£1,900).

Nine companies can make the drug under licence outside the US for distribution in 127 mostly poorer countries, and the cost is lower. But the project is still in its early stages.

Additional quantities are being manufactured for use in clinical trials. But critics say the US move to buy up so much stock from Gilead itself undermines international co-operation on COVID, given that other countries have taken part in trials of Remdesivir, originally an anti-viral against Ebola.

“The trial that gave the result that allowed Remdesivir to sell their drug wasn’t just done in the US. There were patients participating through other European countries, in the UK as well, and internationally, Mexico and other places,” Oxford University’s Prof Peter Horby told BBC Radio 4.

He said the move also had implications for any possible future vaccine, with the need for “a much stronger framework if we are going to develop these things and they’re going to be used for national emergencies”.

Senior Sussex University lecturer, Ohid Yaqub, said: “It so clearly signals an unwillingness to co-operate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights.”Some in the US have criticised the purchase price, as taxpayer money had helped fund Remdesivir’s development.BBC

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17 new Zimbabwe Covid-19 cases confirmed



Zimbabwe Covid 19

Seventeen new cases of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe, a majority of which are from quarantine facilities were reported yesterday bringing the total number of cases to 591.

From the cases confirmed yesterday, 13 involved returnees from South Africa, one from Botswana while three were local transmissions. The Ministry of Health and Child Care daily update shows that one of the cases confirmed as a local transmission had to contact with a known confirmed case.

Investigations are, however, underway to establish the source of infection for the two other local transmissions. Cases of recoveries also continue to increase with the latest statistics from the update standing at 162, leaving the country with 421 active COVID 19 cases.

The latest recoveries were reported from Mashonaland East (3), Mashonaland Central (2), Bulawayo (2), Matabeleland North (2), Mashonaland West (1) and Manicaland (1). The number of people who have died from the virus remains at seven.

“To date, the total number of confirmed cases is 591, recovered 162, active cases, 422 and seven deaths since the onset of the outbreak on 20 March 2020,” reads part of the update.

Zimbabwe has so far conducted 67 755 tests for Covid-19 from which, 30 711 were diagnostic tests while the remaining were rapid tests done for screening purposes. The Herald

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