‘Operation Chenesa Harare’ – What you need to know about government’s clean-up campaign as cholera cases surge


HARARE – In response to the escalating cholera cases in Harare, the central government has initiated a major clean-up campaign dubbed "Operation Chenesa Harare", which is aimed at restoring proper hygiene standards and cleanliness in Zimbabwe's run-down capital. 

Operation Chenesa Harare latest news 2024
Image: NewsDay

Since the outbreak of cholera in February 2023, Zimbabwe has recorded (as at January 5, 2024) 15,137 suspected cases, 1,759 confirmed cases, 14,578 recoveries, 67 confirmed deaths and 266 suspected deaths. This has resulted in a case fatality rate of 2.2%.

The operation, which commenced on Friday, involves the mobilisation of 36 trucks for a seven-day blitz targeting solid waste dumps in the central business district (CBD) and residential areas.

On the first day of the operation, over 122 tonnes of garbage were cleared. 

The authorities have also mapped cholera hotspots within the city and plan to launch a vaccination campaign targeting about two million people in the worst affected areas over the coming weeks.

Efforts are being made to increase the amount of potable water being pumped from the city’s water treatment plants from the current 250 mega-litres per day, as cholera cases have been steadily rising in recent weeks. 

This has raised public alarm amid concerns over the capital’s poor sanitation and water shortages.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora addressed a press conference on Saturday, stating:

"As you know, it (cholera) is a deadly disease when not managed well, but the causes are easily preventable, because it is caused by poor hygiene and sanitation conditions. 

"Part of this (operation) is to address these poor hygiene conditions which are prevailing in Harare. It is the duty of Government to intervene when things are not moving properly. 

"Harare City Council is failing to collect garbage, provide potable water, proper sewer reticulation system and solid waste management."

Operation Chenesa Harare January 2024
Government's presser on the weekend [Image: Sunday Mail]

Dr Mombeshora added that the government had mobilised resources from both the public and private sectors to undertake the operation, which aims to ensure that all the garbage in Harare is collected by January 12, 2024.

To facilitate the seamless implementation of the blitz, the authorities have subdivided the city into different regions to ensure efficiency.

"In total we have 13 tipper trucks, six front-end loaders, a backhoe loader and 16 refuse compactors. Yesterday (Friday), we managed to remove slightly over 122 tonnes, with all the garbage taken to Pomona dumpsite," he said.

The city has been divided into five regions, with each region covering specific areas. 

Region three, for instance, covers Highfield, Southerton, Glen Norah, Glen View, Churu Farm, Budiriro and Mufakose — areas the Government said were typically cholera hotspots. 

"Fourteen trucks are operating in this region. We are hoping that within seven days, all the garbage will have been cleared," he added.

Dr Mombeshora also stated, "We are also going to the next stage, where we want to provide clean potable water." He stated that the supply of potable water has dropped from 350 megalitres to 250 megalitres.

Turning to the areas covered in other regions: Region one covers the CBD, Mbare, Sunningdale, Waterfalls and Hatfield. Region two will cover Harare South, which is Southlea Park, Hopley and Ushewokunze. 

Region four comprises of Dzivaresekwa, Warren Park, Kambuzuma, Kuwadzana, Mabelreign, Marlborough and Mt Pleasant, while Borrowdale, Hatcliffe, Highlands, Mabvuku and Tafara fall under region five.

The health minister also added that government will institute close monitoring in schools to curb the spread of the disease in learning centres. 

"On the issue of opening of schools, it (cholera) is not highly contagious as compared to Covid-19. We want all schools to implement proper hygiene.

"We are hoping that by the time schools open, there will be enough water; soap will be provided, and we are also encouraging foot baths so the learners decontaminate.

"It does not necessitate delay in the opening of schools," said Dr Mombeshora. "At every school, there should be a health educator, who will be monitoring compliance."

Harare City Council has been perennially struggling to adequately provide satisfactory social services and amenities in the capital, a phenomenon which has been attributed to the parallel structures of governance where the local authority, largely controlled by the opposition, has been at loggerheads with the central government, which is dominated by the ruling party. 

This has led to confusion and uncertainty regarding proper governance, creating a governance crisis that has severely hampered effective service delivery. 

The ruling party accuses the opposition-led council of gross incompetence while the opposition claim that the Zanu PF-led central government allocates paltry sums of money to the council, contrary to good principles of devolution. 

On its part, Harare City Council has been performing dismally as concerns service delivery due to internecine struggles and issues of corruption—exacerbated by poor revenue collection and sheer maladministration. 

Amid all these political blame games while human lives remain in grave danger, it remains to be seen whether Operation Chenesa Harare will be as effective as intended. 

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