Chitungwiza residents are heavily leaning on the local authority to address the hazards caused by the municipal dumpsite, which has now become a death trap.
Over the years, several victims have sustained serious life-threatening burns, while others have unfortunately succumbed to toxic chemicals and hot ashes.
One of the victims, Nyashadzashe Govha (12), is still admitted in hospital nursing wounds he sustained in August last year after stepping on hot ash dunes allegedly dumped by a cooking oil manufacturing company, Surface Wilmar.
Residents are riled by the municipality’s reluctance to act despite rising incidents of injuries at the dumpsite.
Nyashadzashe’s father, Chamunorwa Govha, has filed a police report against Chitungwiza following his son’s mishap.
The case is now before the courts.
“This has to stop! My child suffered the same tragedy that befell another victim, Marlon (7) (surname withheld), less than a year ago.
“This shows the council is not willing to address the problem as a matter of urgency and they have done nothing about it thus far,” explained Govha.
“My child is in deep pain and is longing to go home. It is not a joke to be detained in hospital for more than 10 months. He has 25-degree burns and is writhing in pain. I do not wish any child to suffer like this or for any parent to experience what I am going through.”
Marlon was treated at Chitungwiza Central Hospital for serious burns on both arms and legs.
His parents are also part of those seeking legal recourse.
Initially, residents wanted to sue both Chitungwiza Municipality and Surface Wilmar, which has a plant along the New Chitungwiza Road.
However, the cooking oil manufacturing company’s chief executive officer, Mr Sylvester Mangani, shifted blame to the local authority.
“Several people that are falling victim at the dumpsite are wrongly approaching our company instead of the council. Like any other company, we pay the council so that our litter is safely disposed of,” said Mr Mangani.
The company is actively engaging authorities to find a lasting solution.
“Plans are underway to hold a meeting with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and Chitungwiza council so that we find a solution to this crisis,” he said.
EMA is a statutory body responsible for ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, prevention of pollution and environmental degradation.
Securing the dumpsite is considered to be the most urgent issue.
Council officials, however, insist that they are addressing the problem.
“We are in the process of fencing the area. We have called for tenders. On the issue of compensation, we are waiting for a council resolution since the cases are now before the courts,” said Lovemore Meya, Chitungwiza Municipality’s spokesperson.
Nyashadzashe met his fate after he decided to use a shortcut on his way from his sister’s place.
He stepped onto hot ash dunes and suffered burnt hands and legs.
His mother, Patience Sande, had to quit her job to nurse him during his uninterrupted hospital stay, which is now close to a year.
In addition to worrying about his son’s condition, Nyashadzashe’s father is also agonising about soaring medical bills.
“My child dearly needs assistance so that he speedily recovers and gets discharged from hospital. He is visibly traumatised, has lost hope and needs counselling.
“From the time he was admitted until January this year, we had accrued hospital bills of about $13 000 and the figures keep rising with each passing day since he is far from being discharged,” said the distraught father.
Much of the bills are for ensuring a constant supply of blood and high protein foods that are needed to speed up recovery.
Skin grafting is also another expensive procedure.
Added Mr Govha: “His blood levels are low and at one time he was at 2,6 instead of eight. His blood level needs to be constantly checked. I hope and believe if he gets medical attention at a better facility he will not stay longer in hospital. He needs more than US$10 000.
“At one time the doctors had opted to amputate his legs but after noticing chances of recovery they gave him a second chance.”
His main wish is for his child to get medical assistance in India or at a local private hospital.
But Nyashadzashe is lucky to have survived the horrific incident.
A couple of months after his misfortune, another 12-year-old, Voster (surname withheld), died due to burns sustained at the same dumpsite. There are several other cases over the past four years.
Meanwhile, environmental experts say waste generation and disposal are grave environmental challenges in many urban areas, particularly in developing countries, and continue to grow due to consumption patterns and economic growth.
Cities are now grappling with problems of high volumes of waste, high costs involved in its management and the impact on humans and the environment.
Those who might want to assist Mr Chamunorwa Govha send money via his NMB Bank Account number 310348422 or EcoCash number 0784463626 or his mother’s number Patience Sande 0776944996.