VIRUS DIARY: Staving off the virus while our water runs out

In this April 15, 2020, photo, AP photojournalist Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi approaches a police roadblock in his car in Harare, Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
In this April 15, 2020, photo, AP photojournalist Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi approaches a police roadblock in his car in Harare, Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE – I know we're meant to be washing our hands frequently. We're trying. But we're running out of water again and I don't know when the water truck is going to be back.

Queuing and crowding for food was a daily chore even before the coronavirus. It's worse now. Social distancing is a luxury.

Our economy is broken. Only Nicolas Maduro's Venezuela has a higher inflation rate than us. We've had critical shortages of water, food, gas, cash. We thought things couldn't get worse. The virus saw to that.

Water is my biggest concern. It's usually delivered on a truck by a private company. The municipal water system has been dilapidated for years. We might get municipal water out of a tap at home once or twice a week if we strike it lucky. Mostly, when I turn on a tap it gurgles, spurts some muddy-colored liquid for a few seconds, then stops. My kids won't be washing their hands in that.

Jeffrey is my water guy. My delivery time is Friday afternoons. I pay Jeffrey, he pumps 5,000 liters from the tanks on his truck into the one I installed at my house and we're good for another week.

Jeffrey doesn't arrive every Friday now. The trucks are being stopped at lockdown roadblocks.

When Jeffrey doesn't show, I go to Plan B. A friend has a borehole to access groundwater in his yard. I call him and go round. At the gate, I yell. He answers, passes his hosepipe over the fence. I fill as many containers as I've managed to fit in my car. I don't even see Kuda. Haven't for a while. We just talk over the fence and laugh at what we're doing. Then I'm off home with tomorrow's showers and laundry water slopping around on the back seat.

At work, I document the food queues, one of many elements constraining the lives of harried Zimbabweans. There's been little change in attitudes, even with the threat of the virus hanging over every line. If anything, the people pack tighter, more afraid of missing out on food.