Poor solid waste management is a common phenomenon in Zimbabwe’s cities and towns, and it represents a major health risk that has contributed to many diseases outbreaks leading to the unnecessary death of hundreds of people every year. According to 2015 statistics, released two weeks ago by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, diarrhoea accounted for 502 recorded deaths and 521, 573 treated cases across the country. In epidemiology, it is well established that all diarrheal diseases are regarded as environmental diseases, which are those that can be directly attributed to environmental factors, especially with water pollution due to poor waste management. They are also known as diseases of poverty because they affect poor communities more than the wealthier ones. Environmentalists point to poor waste management as the major cause of these diseases.

In recent months, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Oppah Muchinguri, has tried to fight the culture of reckless littering and introduced series of new law for citizens and companies. He introduced a new stringent anti-littering regime, which gives police authority to arrest litterbugs who now risk being fined too. He also gave to the mobile phone companies six months to phase out recharge scratch cards and migrate to paperless technologies that do not pollute the environment; the food and retail outlets were given the same timeframe to migrate to bio-degradable materials that are environmentally-friendly. But, with the country experiencing rapid urbanisation, there is an urgent need to put in place a robust solid waste management system if the country is to avoid being reduced to a country of mass rubble and rubbish.

The facts and figures about poor waste management in Zimbabwe should be considered as representative for 35-45% of the world’s population and they highlight the need to upgrade waste management in the global and local agenda, as a health emergency. It is clear that poor waste management is also a violation of human rights, especially of the right to a healthy environment. Sound waste management must be upgraded to a human right. It should not be a privilege. It must not be depended on personal income, race, gender or national discriminations. It must be easily accessible, affordable and suitable to local conditions, for everyone in the planet.

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