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Health crisis looms at Bulawayo's makeshift kombi terminus

by Staff reporter
27 Jul 2019 at 15:17hrs | Views
WITHOUT a care in the world, a visibly intoxicated tout staggers out of a parked commuter omnibus with a plastic bottle filled with a yellowish liquid and tosses it on a heap of trash in an alley just a few metres from the vehicle.

It's broad daylight with hundreds of commuters converging on the corner of Herbert Chitepo and Sixth Avenue headed home to different Bulawayo suburbs, but the tout is not bothered by the people watching him toss his urine filled bottle in an open space. He staggers back into the 18-seater kombi and seamlessly joins his friends in a heated argument on the results of a weekend Premier Soccer League football game.

"We're used to it. In fact, I think he tried to be respectful by doing his business in the car instead of urinating in the alley where we can all see him," says a vendor selling tomatoes a few metres from the alley.

The makeshift terminus is a hive of activity with informal traders selling various wares from vegetables, fruits, mobile phone chargers to roasted mealies and passengers seeking transport to go home after a long day's work. It's been over a year since Basch Street Terminus in Bulawayo, popularly known as Egodini was closed to pave way for the construction of a multi-million dollar mall, with informal traders and commuter omnibus operators relocating to other sites.

According to the Bulawayo Upcoming Traders Associations (Buta) representative Dumisani Ndebele, over 4 000 vendors and transport operators operating at Egodini were affected when the terminus was closed. Now scattered at different sites allocated to them by the Bulawayo City Council — mostly without ablution facilities — alleys have turned into toilets for the vendors, kombi drivers and touts.

"It's easier for men to relieve themselves in alleys. We used to complain, but it's no use because they'll just urinate in the alley anyway," continues the vendor who later identifies herself as Martha Mlilo.

The vendors' association is worried about the looming health crisis at the makeshift terminus and has engaged the Bulawayo City Council but with little to no joy.

"We have vendors and transport operators on 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue and in other undesignated parts of the city and almost  all of them operate in areas without toilets. It's unfortunate that they are forced to use alleys to relieve themselves but who can blame them?  

"Who can go for the whole day without answering to the call of nature?" asked Ndebele. He says the situation is worsened by lack of water in the areas the vendors operate in. "There is no water source in the area. We had requested council to supply us with water bowsers, but they said they did not have diesel for the bowsers," he said.

Thomas Moyo, a vendor said: "We face a great challenge of water when selling fruits such as apples because there is no water and some people just buy and eat, which could lead to an outbreak of cholera."

With the cholera outbreak that plunged the country into a crisis last year still fresh in people's minds, the situation at the makeshift terminus is a cause for concern for the vendors' association. BCC anticipates that construction of the Egodini Mall, a multi-million dollar project, will be complete in 15 months.

"The redevelopment of the transportation interchange is expected to take 15 months. During the redevelopment of Egodini, temporary pick up points and termini have been established and these will complement existing termini," said the local authority last year.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432 000 diarrhoeal deaths annually. WHO also notes that poor sanitation reduces human well-being, social and economic development.

Statistics released by WHO in 2017 on deaths caused by diarrhoea should spring the Bulawayo City Council into action as WHO says poor sanitation is believed to be the main cause in some of the 432 000 deaths and that diarrhoea remains a major killer but is largely preventable.

Source - chroncile