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Bulawayo residents enduring sleepless nights

by Staff reporter
07 Mar 2021 at 08:53hrs | Views
The Covid-19 outbreak has piled more misery on Bulawayo residents, who are enduring sleepless nights due to the irritating mosquito menace caused by council's failure to disinfect breeding sites, citing operational constraints.

Typically, council rolls out anti-mosquito disinfection campaigns in the city which also entails cutting grass, perfect breeding grounds for the insects known for relentless buzzing sounds.

The mosquito menace is now forcing some residents to dig deep into their pockets to buy mosquito repellents, which are costly.

A single roll of mosquito coil sells for 10 rand, or $40, while a mosquito repellant spray retails for anything upwards of $350  at major supermarkets in the city.

"The reality of the matter is that mosquitoes are now a public nuisance," said Sikhululekile Moyo, the ward 17 councillor.

"One cannot have a peaceful sleep these days with these mosquitoes."

The  heavy  rains have made the situation worse as seen in tall grass and flowing streams in residential areas, becoming conducive breeding grounds for the insects.

Mosquito breeding reaches a peak during the hot wet months, mainly from September to March.

"We are not seeing council teams cutting grass or embarking on anti-malaria spraying programmes as they used to in the past," complained ward seven resident Patrick Ndlovu, adding "no wonder the mosquito menace."

The 2020 Covid-19 lockdown measures, which disrupted economic activities and livelihoods, affected the council's financial capacity to roll out the fight against mosquitoes, city officials argue.

"The skeletal teams that are supposed to carry out mosquito spraying programmes are swamped in that they also have to be disinfecting some public sites for Covid-19, disinfect gravesites, mortuaries, quarantine centres and so forth," Moyo said.

Ward 24 councillor Arnold Batirai added: "We are working with a skeletal staff because of the lockdown.

"Under normal circumstances, we could have seen teams on the ground, cutting grass."

Government departments and other private companies are also working with skeletal staff as a Covid-19 preventive measure, with the majority of employees continuing to work from home.

However, while residents complain, the council says they are part of the problem.

According to the council, the city is too broke to afford some chemicals needed in the anti-mosquito fight as residents are not paying bills.

"The major challenge is that the majority of residents are not working, the lockdown has affected the capacity of many to pay bills," said councillor Shadreck Sibanda.

According to Bulawayo City Council, only 16% of ratepayers fully paid their bills in 2020.

Council is owed as much as $700 million in outstanding bill payments. Government departments also owe the local authority several millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

Sibanda added: "This then affects us in that the council is left with no financial resources to pay the community groups employed to cut the grass, or to purchase required chemicals to destroy the breeding sites of the insects."

According to a recent council health and housing education report, "the section had challenges on chemicals, impacting mosquito control negatively."

However, the report shows that the department in December continued with the clearing of streams; 2 730 metres along Bulawayo Spruit, 2 550 metres, Luveve SDA, 600 metres along the Bulawayo Spruit and 600 metres along National Foods stream.

"Spotters continued with monitoring of streams, some moderate to heavy breeding of Culicidae (a sub-family of the insects) mosquitoes were found along the streams and treated," the report revealed.

Streams named as having heavy mosquito breeding are Matsheumhlophe, Bulawayo Spruit, Luveve SDA Woodlands and Hillside, Glengary, Mahatshula stream, Batch Street, Mkambo canal, New Lobengula, Luveve road and Emakhandeni stream.

Bulawayo deputy mayor Mlandu Ncube said Covid-19 had made it difficult for the council to hire community groups to cut grass and carry out other mosquito control programmes.

"Normally, we hire community groups through community leadership such as councillors, but the challenge now is that it is tough to gather those people due to Covid-19," Ncube says.

"All departments were affected financially by Covid-19; we are struggling to provide some services."

However, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has urged the council to look for alternative revenue streams instead of relying on ratepayers to fund service delivery operations.

"There is a need for council to come up with alternative revenue sources urgently. There is need to cut down on unnecessary expenditure and reduce overtime expenditures," BPRA coordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu said.

 *This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organization that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.

Source - The Citizen Bulleti