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Zimbabwe’s capital runs dry as water supplies cut off for two million

The move has raised new fears about disease after a recent cholera outbreak.

Buckets are seen in a queue to fetch water at a borehole in Harare, Tuesday, Sept, 24, 2019. The more than 2 million residents of Zimbabwe’s capital and surrounding towns are now without water after authorities shut down the city’s main treatment plant, raising new fears about disease after a recent cholera outbreak while the economy crumbles further. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Buckets are seen in a queue to fetch water at a borehole in Harare, Tuesday, Sept, 24, 2019. The more than 2 million residents of Zimbabwe’s capital and surrounding towns are now without water after authorities shut down the city’s main treatment plant, raising new fears about disease after a recent cholera outbreak while the economy crumbles further. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

By Farai Mutsaka, Associated Press

The more than two million residents of Zimbabwe’s capital and surrounding towns have been left without water after authorities shut down the city’s main treatment plant.

The move has raised new fears about disease after a recent cholera outbreak.

Officials in Harare have struggled to raise foreign currency to import water treatment chemicals – about £2.1 million is needed per month – and water levels in polluted dams are dropping because of drought.

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A borehole in Harare (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

“Everyone living in Harare is affected, they don’t have water,” city council spokesman Michael Chideme said as residents turned to options such as bottled water or wells.

He called it a dangerous situation because of the risk of water-borne diseases. “Maybe the situation will be resolved by tomorrow but we are not sure,” he said.

The capital frequently records cases of disease such as typhoid due to water shortages and dilapidated sewer infrastructure. Some residents are forced to get water from shallow, unsafe wells and defecate in the open.

The Associated Press earlier this month watched some residents pump water then wait half an hour for enough water to seep into the well to pump again.

Last year 26 people died in a cholera outbreak, leading President Emmerson Mnangagwa to express public dismay that Zimbabweans were suffering from a “medieval” disease.

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa (Ben Curtis/AP)

The country was once a bright spot in southern Africa and a regional breadbasket but the economy has collapsed in recent years, and foreign currency is hard to come by.

Prices for many basic items continue to rise, and the public health care system falters as some doctors and others say they can hardly afford the commute to work.

As services largely collapse, many Harare residents in recent months have found themselves lining up at wells in the middle of the night for water or lighting their homes by candle or mobile phone.

The deepening frustrations have exploded more than once into protests that have swiftly been followed by sometimes violent government crackdowns.

PA

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