Cablegate: Harare Management Challenge: Coping with Collapse

DE RUEHSB #1067/01 3381706
O 031706Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

B. HARARE 1039
C. HARARE 1007
G. 07 HARARE 504


1. SUMMARY: The collapse of Zimbabwe's infrastructure and economy
continues to provide new challenges to post management. Post
currently has the capacity to provide regular water supplies to all
USG offices and residences except those in commercial office
buildings. Additional wells may be required in the future, and
Post's Public Affairs Section requires back up capabilities or
relocation. Health system collapse has required the Mission to
begin self-insurance for LES, despite the workload implications.
With current facilities, Post cannot compensate for the lack of
reliable emergency services. Post requests funding for well
drilling and a prefabricated medical facility. END SUMMARY.

2. Post has reported extensively (Refs E, F and G) on how
Zimbabweans have managed to cope with their country's economic
crisis. Zimbabwe's collapsing infrastructure and imploding economy
create a different set of issues for USG efforts to maintain the
basic standards of service required to keep the Embassy running and
our families safe and comfortable. Just a few years ago, municipal
services generally functioned and it was simple to identify local
service providers capable of meeting our needs. Within Africa,
Zimbabwe was extraordinary in its resemblance to a first world
country. Today, Zimbabwe is like any other least developed country,
and we have to provide for almost all our own needs, just as our
management operations in places like the DRC and Niger have to
compensate for the absence of local services. For the last few
years, our Mission Strategic Plans have focused on the difficulty of
meeting these challenges with an inadequate platform. We appreciate
the support we have received from the Africa Bureau despite the
tight budgets of the last few years.

3. While this process has been underway for several years, it has
been punctuated by crises which require accelerated responses. Just
over a year ago, fuel shortages were the most significant threat to
the Mission's ability to carry on business as usual. Post responded
by expanding fuel storage and transport capacity. Water shortages
have been a growing problem for some time, but the collapse of water
treatment and distribution systems (Ref D) in recent weeks, combined
with a cholera outbreak (Refs A and D), has tested our coping
skills. Similarly, the collapse of local health care services (Refs
B and C) requires that the USG develop in-house capacities it did
not need in the past.


4. In the past, municipalities in Zimbabwe ran their own water
utilities. Until a few years ago, Harare was one of the few capital
cities in Africa with reliably potable tap water. The cities,
however, were bases of support for the MDC and regularly elected MDC
councils and mayors. ZANU-PF undertook a number of measures to
reduce the authority of municipal governments, including giving the
Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) control over municipal
waterworks. This parastatal has been unable to generate sufficient
revenue to maintain water infrastructure and to purchase inputs,
including treatment chemicals.

5. USG office and residential facilities in Harare have suffered
interruptions in water service for a number of years. We have
functioning wells on 21 of our properties, and water tanks installed
at all owned and leased offices and residences except our Public
Affairs Section (PAS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
facilities in commercial office buildings. The Harare International
School has adequate well water as well. The Mission has long used a
water truck to fill tanks at locations without ZINWA service. In
late FY07, with the number of facilities requiring water deliveries
growing, Post purchased a second water truck to double our capacity
to respond.

6. In the past, the chancery had reliable ZINWA service and we
principally used municipal water from the chancery to fill our water
trucks. In FY07, we also installed equipment at a government-owned
residence with a productive well to facilitate filling of the water
truck with well water, both to cover (increasingly frequent)
interruptions in chancery supplies and to increase our capacity.
ZINWA recently completely stopped treating water and stopped all
pumping for about a week. (It has resumed supplying the city
center, with what we assume is untreated water.) The well we have
relied on also gives indications that it may be deteriorating.
However, we have 4 other wells that we can easily shift to, and with
the advent of the rainy season, seasonal wells, such as one on the
chancery compound, will begin to provide water. The past week
presented us with a short term "worst case scenario" for water

HARARE 00001067 002 OF 002

supplies, and our water trucks and the LES who drive them have
proved equal to the task; the tanks at our offices and residences
remained well supplied.

7. Although our coping mechanisms are equal to the current water
delivery challenge, we need to prepare ourselves for potential
drying up of the wells we now rely on. Our best option is to drill
new wells in promising locations.

8. Our CDC and PAS facilities are both located in city center
commercial office buildings, and neither building provides tenants
with a backup water system. CDC, with 29 employees, relies on four
1,000 liter containers the Embassy keeps filled when the taps run
dry. PAS, which receives about a hundred visitors a day, is in a
different situation. Water in the Eastgate building, where PAS is
located, is separated into two systems, one for toilets and another
for taps. When the taps run dry, public access to the information
resource center is suspended. As long as toilets continue working,
employees remain at work, with bottled water and hand sanitizer to
assure hygiene. In the past, water interruptions have been rare.
With deterioration in basic services and an indefinite delay in
construction of Harare's NEC, post is evaluating the feasibility and
cost of supplying backup power and water for PAS at its current
location. If this cannot be arranged, relocation may be necessary.
Either option will involve significant unbudgeted costs.


9. ZINWA's failures are largely responsible for the scale of the
current cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, but the unusually high cholera
fatality rate (4.5 percent nationwide) is due to the collapse in
Zimbabwe's health systems. In the past, the Embassy relied on a
local medical insurance scheme for LES health care and highly
qualified private practitioners and well equipped hospitals for
direct hire referrals and emergencies. While some qualified
practitioners remain, there is no longer a functioning health
insurance scheme and there are no medical facilities in the country
that can be relied on to provided emergency stabilization pending

10. Post has responded to the specific challenge of the cholera
outbreak by sharing prevention information with employees and
American citizens and ordering supplies of hand sanitizer to
distribute throughout the Embassy, with special focus on public
access points. Reports of an anthrax outbreak in one region of
Zimbabwe do not currently represent any unusual threat to employees
or American citizens; anthrax is endemic in Zimbabwe with occasional
localized outbreaks, and human infection can be prevented by
avoiding under-cooked meat.

11. While specific disease outbreaks are manageable, the broader
issue of systemic collapse is more challenging. After six months of
effort to put in place a short term commercial option for LES health
insurance pending solicitation of bids, the Mission has determined
that there is no viable short term solution. Post will self insure
our 214 LES and their family members for the interim. This will
create a significant new workload for Post's Medical Unit and
Financial Management Office, but is the only means by which we can
meet our commitment to our employees.

12. Post cannot rely on its current facilities resources to
compensate for the collapse of public and private hospitals.
Following a recent visit, Post's Regional Medical Officer concluded
that our in-house capabilities need to be augmented. She suggested
in her trip report that, because current medical unit offices
provide no expansion capacity, we consider "adding some double-wide
trailers or comparable prefabricated building to capture on-site
space. Key would be to having a stretcher-accessible mini-ER for
patient stabilization. Increased space for pharmacy supplies will
also be needed. The thoughts to a small laboratory space for simple
lab tests to be performed on-site as well."


13. Post requests that OBO provide US$5,000 in funding for
well-drilling surveys at ten locations; if the surveys are
promising, further funding will be sought.

14. Post requests that the Department explore options for providing
a prefabricated medical facility that would include a capacity to
stabilize emergency patients awaiting evacuation.


© Scoop Media

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