Harare City Council and vendors are headed for a showdown after the local authority banned illegal vending of food in the Harare Metropolitan area following a typhoid outbreak which claimed two lives in Mbare.
Both victims died last month.
Council yesterday issued a 48-hour ultimatum for all vendors to cease operations as it reported that 132 suspected cases of typhoid had been recorded so far, while 280 people had presented themselves for screening.
There are 22 confirmed cases of typhoid and fears abound the disease could spread through unhygienic food vending.
Health Services director Dr Prosper Chonzi said he feared further typhoid outbreaks as the drivers of the disease were still to be dealt with.
“As the health director, l am still worried as the determinants of a typhoid outbreak are still out there. That makes it difficult for the disease to be contained,” said Dr Chonzi.
“We cannot win this if the environmental factors which exacerbate typhoid such as uncollected garbage, sewage, unsafe water sources and uncontrolled vending of foodstuffs are left as they are,” he said.
“We need to be cruel if we are to contain the outbreak and the ban on (street food) vending is a welcome development. People should buy food in licensed premises which meet the required standards of the Public Health Act and other council by-laws.”
Dr Chonzi urged residents, especially children, to go for early screening in the event of symptoms related to typhoid.
The symptoms of typhoid are; poor appetite, abdominal pain, headaches, generalised aches and pains, fever, high temperature, lethargy (usually only if untreated), intestinal bleeding or perforation (after two to three weeks of the disease), diarrhoea or constipation.
Harare acting corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme said the situation on the ground had forced council to take drastic measures to contain the spread of the disease.
“Preliminary investigations have shown that the key drivers of typhoid and 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,” said Mr Chedeme.
“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 illegal food vendors operating within the Harare Metropolitan area to cease operations temporarily forthwith. The ban will be reviewed depending on improvements on the ground,” he said.
Mr Chideme said the ban also covered general vending at illegal sites, and that pushcarts used in the central business district would be impounded during the exercise.
Impounded fruits, meat, maize, fish and vegetables would be destroyed, he said.
Mr Chideme said the operation was being undertaken to protect the public.
“We are invoking the Public Health Act for the public good. We are aware of the fierce backlash that we will receive from the vendors, but our actions are in the public interest