HARARE – The Zimbabwean capital on Tuesday gave vendors a 48-hour ultimatum to cease operations in Harare following an outbreak of typhoid fever in the past few weeks.
In a statement, Harare City Council acting town clerk Josephine Ncube said the local authority had been forced to take drastic measures to contain the spread of the disease.
“Preliminary investigations have shown that the key drivers of typhoid and any other water-borne diseases are issues related to personal hygiene, unregulated vending of foodstuffs such as vegetables, meat, fish (cooked and uncooked) and inadequate water supplies,” she said.
“There are issues that we can immediately control/regulate to ensure that we contain the spread of typhoid. One of these is street vending. We are, therefore, issuing a 48-hour ultimatum to all food vendors operating within the Harare Metropolitan area to cease operations temporarily forthwith.
The ban on street vending would be reviewed at a later stage when the spread of the disease is contained.
“The ban also covers general vending at illegal sites. Pushcarts used in the central business district will be impounded during the exercise. Impounded fruits, meat, maize, fish and vegetables will be destroyed.”
Ncube said they were invoking the Public Health Act “for the good…and with the interests of the majority at heart”.
“We are aware of the fierce backlash that we will receive from the vending public but our actions are in the public interest,” she said.
The capital’s acting town clerk said starting on Tuesday, they would be carrying out publicity campaigns to educate the public on the action they were taking to curb the spread of typhoid and would encourage vending in designated sites.
This is not the first time vendors have been banned in the city, and past bans have failed to yield results.
Harare municipality two years ago apportioned designated points for vendors, but they found no takers as the traders cited lack of ablution facilities at the new sites as well as slow business.
The capital’s central business district can only accommodate 2,000 vendors, but there has been a rise in their numbers in past years owing to massive job losses in the past decade.
Last week, the government announced a ban on food vendors in the capital over fears of typhoid and cholera outbreaks, largely blamed on poor sanitation and erratic water supplies.
Director for epidemiology and disease control in the Health and Child Care Ministry, Portia Manangazira, was quoted by AFP recently as saying there had been more than 2,300 suspected cases of typhoid in the country last year, with 12 deaths reported.
“The cases were mostly from Harare… We are still in emergency response mode and we are doing everything possible to get the situation under control,” said Manangazira.
Of the nine deaths countrywide, two have been recorded so far in the populous high-density suburb of Mbare in Harare since the outbreak in December last year. Eighteen others have been hospitalised.
Government fears the typhoid outbreak, if not properly contained, could replicate the 2008 cholera pandemic, which claimed about 4,000 lives at the same time affected 100,000 others countrywide.
Health and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa last week said 76 percent of the typhoid cases reported at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital were from Mbare.
Before Tuesday’s ultimatum to vendors, and as a measure to stem the outbreak, the local authority had been decommissioning some boreholes in the high-density suburbs, which they believe were contaminated by raw sewage from burst pipes.
Typhoid is spread when food or water containing contaminated faecal matter or Salmonella typhosa is consumed.
African News Agency