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‘We are drinking sewage water’: Zimbabwe shortages threaten thousands

As the search for water in Bulawayo becomes more desperate, diarrhoea outbreaks from dirty water are endangering children

It is 6am on a Saturday and residents of Sizinda, a poor suburb in Bulawayo, have begun their desperate hunt for water. The taps at home dried up three months ago.

Water has become a daily struggle in Zimbabwe’s second biggest city, largely the result of a severe drought last year which has dried up the reservoirs. The poor rains expected this year will bring more hardship.

The city has recorded more than 2,300 cases of diarrhoea since June – 600 among children under five, according to health service figures.

A drive along the streets of Sizinda follows a trail of desperation, as women and children clutching water buckets search for water.

At a railway line, hundreds of people try to collect muddy water pouring from a broken water pipe. People have little choice but to drink from unprotected water sources, despite the risks.

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“It has been three months without water. While we hear that supplies have been restored in some other areas, there is nothing here. This is where we get water for household use, we have no choice,” says Sibusisiwe Moyo, 40, a rail worker.

“I work the night shift, but there is no time to rest because I have to come here early to fetch water. I had to come earlier when the water was cleaner and before the queue grew longer. This is a desperate situation, we need help.”

Omphile Masuka, 34, who has two children, says she feared the water from the burst water pipe could be contaminated.

“We are drinking sewage water and we are all going to get sick. The city council should respect us. What is surprising is that we have been paying bills every month without a drop of water. How is that fair when my children have to drink this dirty water?”

It’s difficult to fight Covid-19 without water, she adds.

“We have the right to water. What do they want us to do? We do not have boreholes, seriously we cannot survive like this.”

Some of Sizinda’s…

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