It is 6am on a Saturday and residents of Sizinda, a poor suburb in Bulawayo, have begun their desperate hunt for water.
The taps at home dried up three months ago.
Water has become a daily struggle in Zimbabwe’s second biggest city, largely the result of a severe drought last year which has dried up the reservoirs.
The poor rains expected this year will bring more hardship.
The city has recorded 2 600 cases of diarrhoea since June — 600 in the past month, according to health service figures.
The majority of cases are among children under five.
A drive along the streets of Sizinda follows a trail of desperation, as women and children clutching water buckets search for water.
At a railway line, hundreds of people try to collect muddy water pouring from a broken water pipe.
People have little choice but to drink from unprotected water sources, despite the risks.
“It has been three months without water. While we hear that supplies have been restored in some other areas, there is nothing here. this is where we get water for household use, we have no choice,” said Sibusisiwe Moyo (40), a rail worker.
“I work the night shift, but there is no time to rest because I have to come here early to fetch water.
“I had to come earlier when the water was cleaner and before the queue grew longer. this is a desperate situation, we need help.”
Omphile Masuka (34), who has two children, said she feared the water from the burst water pipe could be contaminated.
“We are drinking sewage water and we are all going to get sick. the city council should respect us,” Masuka said.
“What is surprising is that we have been paying bills every month without a drop of water.
“How is that fair when my children have to drink this dirty water?”
It’s difficult to fight Covid-19 without water, she added.
“We have the right to water,” Masuka said. “What do they want us to do? We do not have boreholes, seriously we cannot survive like this.”
Some of Sizinda’s more affluent residents have sunk their own boreholes and installed water pumps.
the less fortunate are forced to queue at community boreholes.
Others have taken advantage of the water shortages to make money, selling 25 litres of water from boreholes for US$2.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a nationwide water crisis due to poor rains and drought.
Most local authorities have been forced to ration water. But Bulawayo, 450km south of Harare, is facing the worst crisis.
Edwin Sibanda, the Bulawayo health services director, says the council is distributing water through the city using bowsers “where possible”.
But it’s not enough.
He confirmed outbreaks of diarrhoea in Bulawayo’s highly populated suburbs, and at Bulawayo Polytechnic College.
Sibanda said stool samples from those taken ill had also showed salmonella, shigella and pseudomonas bacteria, which could have come from unprotected water sources.
Nearly 2 000 cases of diarrhoea and 13 deaths were recorded in the neighbourhood of…
Read more:: Inside Bulawayo’s worsening water crisis