In the latest outbreak of cholera, about 2 000 cases have been recorded in the capital city of Harare alone. The country’s minister of health, Obadiah Moyo, has warned that the disease was spreading to the rest of the country.

According to reports, the breakout began in Glenview, a high-density suburb in Harare, where burst sewer pipes have not been attended to in the past two months. This has contaminated boreholes.

“We are declaring an emergency for Harare. This will enable us to contain the cholera, typhoid and whatever is going on, to get rid of the problem as quickly as possible,” Moyo said yesterday on a visit to areas affected by the outbreak.

The president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, also said that the government was working closely with international partners to contain the disease.

Patients suspected of having the disease have been quarantined in the capital. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Moyo said the outbreak has arisen as a result of blocked sewers. Dilapidated sanitation facilities have long been a major cause of cholera and typhoid in Zimbabwe, and the economic meltdown has not helped matters.

Cholera not new to Zimbabwe

According to the World Health Organisation, cholera outbreaks have become more frequent in Zimbabwe since the early 1990s. In 2008 more than 4 000 people were killed in one of the worst cholera outbreaks to have hit the country.

MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has called for a national approach to deal with the disease, which he has described as “severe”.

Meanwhile, public gatherings have been temporarily banned. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Charity Charamba, asked residents to take heed of the ban, which is a measure to reduce the further spread of the disease.

The politicking over the outbreak has already started, with government blaming the city council. In turn, the city council says that the government should take responsibility for the outbreak. The new mayor of Harare, Herbert Gomba, says the caretaker commission that was put in place to run the city’s affairs last month has reneged on its duties, leading to the outbreak.

Zimbabweans have taken to Twitter to express their displeasure over the running of the country’s health and local authority systems. Some have blasted the government for paying more than half a million US dollars to charter a private plane for the former first lady, Grace Mugabe, yet the council says it has no forex to buy water treatment chemicals.