BURUNDI: Cholera threat as water shortage hits commune
Bujumbura, 16 February 2004 (IRIN) - Two people have died of cholera and three other cases reported since 6 February in Gihanga commune in Burundi's northwestern province of Bubanza. Local officials fear that the disease could spread because of a prolonged water shortage.
The administrator of Gihanga, Jean Bosco Hatungimana, told IRIN on Monday the risk of cholera spreading was high as 2,900 families in the commune had been without water for four months.
He added that the cholera epidemic erupted in Bulamata sector but could spread to other sectors of the commune.
The state utility, Water and Electricity Company, disconnected water supply to Gihanga centre for non-payment of bills, Hatungimana said. The commune owes the state utility 60 million Burundi francs (US $57,000) in bills arrears accumulated over the last 10 years of civil war.
Hatungimana said other sectors of Gihanga also risked having their water disconnected for non-payment of bills. He said negotiations with the state utility were underway for the payment of 15 million francs ($14,000) so that it resumes supplies.
The water problem is not peculiar to Gihanga Commune. In neighbouring Mpanda commune, several sectors have been without water as the water and electricity company has also disconnected their supply. Mpanda owes the state utility more than 33 million francs ($31,455).
"We have no cases of cholera so far, but we have started sensitising the population for fear of the epidemic from the neighbouring Gihanga spreading to Mpanda," Niyonkuru Fidele, the administrator of the commune, said.
Gatumba centre in Mutimbuzi, one of the communes of Bujumbura Rural Province, is not faring any better. An estimated 5,000 people of Rwarugabo sector are depending on the Italian NGO, Coopi, or the International Rescue Committee for their water supply. However, many of the residents people rely on the Rusizi River.
The head of Gatumba zone, Prosper Banzamba, told IRIN that some sectors such as Mushasha, which hosts mainly displaced people from different suburbs of the capital, Bujumbura, was also badly affected by the water shortage.
"There has been no planning of water supply to the extent that the sector of Mushasha does not have a single tap for a population of about 9,000 people," he said.
The residents said they buy water from neighbouring villages, at 30 francs ($0.03), a price many cannot afford on a daily basis. As an alternative, some Mushasha residents have dug boreholes and the rest rely on Rusizi River.
Banzamba said that the unreliable water supply had led to regular cholera outbreaks in the area since November 2003.