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Gweru dumpsite poses fresh Covid-19 threat in city

Gweru’s sole dumpsite which is located in the middle of a sprouting suburb is posing a serious Covid-19 threat as rains are pushing used Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) disposed of by health centres, into people’s homes.

A recent investigation by CITE, carried out over three weeks, revealed that residents are at risk should they come into contact with the used PPE.

The dumpsite is located in the vicinity of Woodlands Park, a suburb populated with match-box structured houses that accommodates about 15 000 people.

Investigations revealed that hospitals, clinics, private surgeries and Covid-19 isolation centres in Gweru dump their used PPEs at the dumpsite.

The local authority which collects garbage from around the city on the gates of residents also dumps the waste at the Woodlands dumpsite.

In turn, the heavy rains currently pounding Gweru and the accompanying strong winds are now pushing the used PPEs such as face masks, boot covers, gowns, and gloves into nearby homes where children pick it up and play with.

Some of the kindergarten kids in fact wear the used face masks and gloves from hospitals which now flow into their yards.

The nearest home from the dumpsite is about 10 meters away.

Obert Rupanga, the Woodlands community development committee chairperson told CITE that with the onset of the rainy season, the risk resurgence of  Covid-19 cases in the area has increased.

“The problem of the used PPEs finding their way into our homes after having been picked by children has always been there for a long time but it has now been worsened by rains. The rains now make the dangerous stuff flow onto our door-steps. The winds are also doing the same. We are in great danger,” he said.

Ordinarily, the dumpsite is not supposed to be located in the vicinity of a residential suburb.

But Timothy Nyoka, the Gweru district officer of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) said the problem is that the developer for Woodlands, River Valley Properties, did not conduct the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) exercise before developing the project.

“These current problems of the dumpsite would have been mitigated if an EIA was conducted. The current problems are a result of that omission,” he said.

Cornelia Selipiwe, the Gweru Residents and Rate Payers Association director, described the threat as a “Covid 19 ticking time bomb.”

“It is very unfortunate and something worrying us as to what will happen to residents due to the risk posed by this dumpsite during this rainy season. We are actually starring into a possible second wave of Covid-19 spread in Gweru due to this dumpsite. We have been approaching the two local authorities that is Vungu Rural District Council and Gweru City Council imploring them to relocate the dumpsite.

“The answers we have been getting are that there is no money to relocate the dumpsite. But we have been saying the money that is needed to re-locate it will definitely be far less the cost of lives that are likely to be lost through a Covid 19 scourge emanating from the dumpsite,” said Selipiwe.

Last year the Gweru City Council highlighted that it needed US$1 million to relocate the dumpsite following an outcry by residents over its impact on people’s health.

Contacted for comment, Gweru mayor Josiah Makombe said he is aware of the risk the dumpsite poses in terms of a possible Covid-19 second wave following onset of rains. He said the garbage collection center is likely to be moved elsewhere next year.

“The Woodlands dumpsite is really a challenge. We have put it on our 2021 budget so that we try to relocate it to a new site. But in the meantime, we want to probably come out with temporary measures such as banning children from entering the dumpsite where they scavenge for different kind of things and end up putting their lives in danger of Covid 19,” he said, adding:

“The city is aware of this challenge and like I always say, its not our baby alone as city fathers. The problem requires all of us to be involved in confronting it.”

The mayor reiterated that Government and development sector partners like Non-Governmental Organisations must chip in with resources to move the dumpsite.

Midlands Provincial Medical Director Dr Reginald Mhene said health care should be disposed of within the health facilities.

“I have asked the city council to investigate and report accordingly. In terms of policy, that is health care waste which should not leave a health care facility but should be properly incinerated there,” he said.

As of Wednesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 11007 cases of Covid 19. 304 people have already died due to the Coronavirus.  Globally 66 million people have been infected by the virus with 1.5 million having lost their lives already.

In Africa, no country has developed a vaccine against the Coronavirus. However, in the United Kingdom, the Government began this week rolling out a vaccine with hopes that if proved health effective, the programme will cascade to other parts of the globe.

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