Zimbabwe bans street vendors to stop typhoid outbreak

Authorities in Zimbabwe have ordered street food and produce vendors operating in the capital, Harare to cease operations in efforts to curb a typhoid outbreak.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE (JANUARY 12, 2O17) (REUTERS) – Zimbabwe city officials have banned street vendors in the capital, Harare to try and contain the spread of typhoid, which authorities say was first reported in December and has killed two people.

Two years ago, more than 40 people in Harare were hospitalised due to typhoid, which some analysts blame on frequent and prolonged droughts – including the current dry spell linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon, which has wreaked havoc on Zimbabwe’s water supplies.

Zimbabwe’s minister of health and child care, Dr David Parirenyatwa said on Monday (January 16) there were 20 confirmed cases of the disease.

“Currently, as I speak there are 110 suspected cases but of those only 20 have been confirmed as typhoid and we currently now know that in our Institutions, there are only 12 cases at our infectious diseases hospital and the trend is generally that now the number of cases that are being admitted has come down and number of cases that are being found also has come down. We are aware that most of the cases are actually from Harare city and we are pleased that there is a very marked downward trend. But as long we have conditions which breed Typhoid, which means unhygienic conditions, poor waste disposal, poor sewage coverage, poor clean water coverage, those are the conditions that breed these diarrhoea diseases,” he added.

Typhoid infections are caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated by a bacteria called Salmonella typhi, often found in human waste. The disease thrives in conditions where sanitation and hygiene are poor.

Symptoms include nausea, fever, abdominal pain and pink spots on the chest. Untreated, the disease can lead to complications in the gut and head, which may prove fatal in up to 20 percent of patients.

Harare authorities say street vending poses a risk because it cannot be monitored for hygiene standards.

“We have done a ban on all food vending in the city because we realised people are selling food items from the pavements and from unsanitary conditions so as a measure to try and control typhoid, we have banned food vending in Harare – temporarily though,” Harare city council communications director, Michael Chideme.

In an economy where less than 20 percent of the population is in formal employment and economic growth is flatlining, one of the only options for survival are various street trades.

The vendors say the ban is interfering with their livelihood and accuse city authorities of being part of the problem because they do not collect rubbish.

“I have been selling fruits like bananas, tomatoes and other foodstuffs since 2011. We are not resisting the ban that the council has imposed, but they should give us an alternative means of survival,” said vendor Munyareadzi Muchinja.

“Typhoid is not being caused by people selling tomatoes or fruits on the street. Typhoid is being caused by council authorities who are failing to collect garbage on time and creating an unclean city,” said Harare resident Elizabeth Bungu.

At the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis in 2008, nearly 4,000 people died from a cholera outbreak, mostly in the capital.

Most of the major cities in Zimbabwe face water shortages caused mainly by ageing infrastructure and lack of money to buy water treatment chemicals.