HARARE, Zimbabwe — Raw sewage flows freely in some streets of Zimbabwe’s capital, posing a deadly challenge to the recently elected president who has promised the troubled country a new dawn.
A cholera outbreak has killed more than 30 people and sickened more than 7,000 as it spreads beyond Harare, posing the latest crisis for a government that pledges, somehow, to turn a collapsed economy into a middle-class one by 2030.
The signs are not encouraging. Inflation has spiked. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took office after the fall of longtime leader Robert Mugabe and for a while sent hopes soaring, now spends his time vowing to fight a “medieval” disease.
As many residents of Harare hop-skip over fetid puddles, many are reminded of the outbreak a decade ago that killed over 4,000 people. Now water and sanitation are largely worse than before.
As the outbreak spreads beyond Harare, Zimbabweans see it as the new government’s first big test after a bitterly disputed election.
“It is by God’s grace that we have not yet been infected,” Elizabeth Limamu, 66, said. She has lined a path of stones from the street to her home to avoid stepping in sewage that has pooled next to her yard. Children, some barefoot, play next to it.
While some in Harare dig trenches to divert the flow, others cannot avoid the sewage that has crept into homes.
The financially struggling government has launched a $57 million appeal amid some backlash. Some local nongovernmental organizations are holding the government accountable for the cholera deaths.
“It is alarming and quite unusual for such a medieval and preventable disease to continue to claim such valuable lives in this day and age,” said the Civil Society Health Emergency Response Coordinating Committee.
A crowd-funding initiative by new Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has swelled public anger, with some questioning why a government that splashes on new cars and private jets should ask impoverished citizens to chip in.