Rodents pose new health threat in Zimbabwe's towns

May 07, 2010 by Fanuel Jongwe

A stray cat paws through a heap of refuse between blocks of flats in Harare's upmarket Avenues area, sending rats squealing and scurrying for cover among the rubbish.

Across the road, cars take turns to skirt a swelling mound of garbage nearly blocking one of the two lanes.

Informal dumpsites have become a familiar sight in sections of Harare where residents are resorting to emptying bins in open spaces as the municipal authorities fail to collect refuse, causing residents to fear .

The ubiquitous heaps are breeding grounds for rats and mice, posing a health threat as the rodents sometimes find their way into homes.

Combined Harare Residents' Association has warned of possible disease outbreak if the refuse problem is not addressed.

"In areas such as Mabvuku, residents say refuse was last collected in February 2009," the association said in statement, referring to a township in eastern Harare where five people died in a typhoid outbreak in February which affected scores of residents.

"The piles of refuse have provided conducive breeding grounds for and rats and residents fear for their health."

Rats can spread diseases through droppings, some of which could be life threatening, including salmonella, diarrhea, vomiting and fever.

Humans can also contract ratbite fever from a rat.

"You can't blame the people who are dumping the rubbish here," Jennifer Mazhawidza, a street vendor said pointing to a heap of garbage blocking a sanitary lane.

"The municipality should do something about it. They charge levies for collecting refuse but they don't provide the service. Now there are rats everywhere because of the rubbish and we may have another disease outbreak."

Municipal authorities collect a monthly levy from residents and companies for refuse collection.

But residents like Tapiwa Ndenda from the populous township of Chitungwiza cannot recall the last time municipal dumptrucks did rounds in his neighbourhood.

"If the trucks came this year, it's not more than three times," he says after looking to the sky trying to remember when he last saw the dustmen in the now-rare orange trucks in action.

"We sometimes have these big rats which can easily be mistaken for kittens."

Chitungwiza recorded the first cases of cholera during an outbreak in 2008 which claimed at least 4,000 lives and affected around 100,000 people across .

The outbreak was contained last year with a heavy injection of international aid, although sporadic cases are still reported.

A woman who works for a pest-control company said demand for rat-baiting services has surged.

"We get more calls from people wanting to rid their houses of rats than we used to. It's because of the rubbish that's everywhere," said the woman who declined to give her name.

"At my own house I put rat poison and a few rats die, but I keep seeing one every time."

Godfrey Chikwenhere, a rodent control specialist at the government's research and extension services said his department was receiving frequent requests for help to get rid of rats.

"We are receiving reports that rodents are on the increase," said Chikwenhere, who was part of a research team that undertook a study in the southern Africa on the problem of rodents.

"How that relates to incidence of human disease still needs to be researched on."

Let down by the authorities, residents and civic groups are teaming up in clean-up campaigns to clear away the informal dumpsites.

"However the dumpsites are sprouting again as the city has not complemented the efforts of the residents by collecting refuse," the residents' association said.

Explore further: US cautiously optimistic after no new Ebola in 5 days

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Smelling a rat to catch a rat

Mar 24, 2008

A novel experiment using laboratory rats to attract wild rats could pave the way for “rat perfumed” bait capable of reducing the millions of rats threatening New Zealand’s native species, say Massey ...

Plague patient 'near death' in remote Chinese town

Aug 05, 2009

(AP) -- Public buses were ordered off the roads of a remote Chinese town to control the possible spread of deadly pneumonic plague that has killed three people and seemed poised to claim a fourth victim Wednesday, ...

Scientists find city rats are loyal to their 'hoods'

May 26, 2009

In the rat race of life, one thing is certain: there's no place like home. Now, a study just released in Molecular Ecology finds the same is true for rats. Although inner city rodents appear to roam freely ...

Recommended for you

US cautiously optimistic after no new Ebola in 5 days

1 hour ago

With no new Ebola cases in five days, US authorities were cautious but hopeful Monday that the virus has been contained in the United States after a flawed response revealed shortcomings in the system.

Nigeria declared Ebola-free in 'spectacular success'

1 hour ago

Nigeria was declared Ebola-free on Monday in a "spectacular success" in the battle to contain the spread of a virus which is devastating Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia where more than 4,500 people have died.

EU says 'increased' effort needed to tackle Ebola

2 hours ago

European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to step up efforts to contain Ebola to prevent it becoming a global threat, including ensuring proper care for international health workers.

User comments : 0