In Zimbabwe, the Harare city council is struggling to keep essential service vehicles running during the country's severe fuel shortage. This is causing suffering and anxiety in the country's capital city.
The city council announced on national television, during the main news bulletin Thursday evening, that it had run out of fuel for the vehicles. But the situation has now apparently eased somewhat.
A council official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the council made the announcement in response to the numerous calls from people asking why ambulances were not responding when summoned. Harare has a fleet of more than 30 ambulances and 25 engines.
The official says the council normally gets 20,000 liters of gasoline and 30,000 liters of diesel fuel a week to keep the emergency vehicles running, as well as garbage collection trucks and other essential transport.
He says supplies have been erratic for the past three months, and the city council last received 10,000 liters of gasoline on May 5, with the usual allocation of diesel. The council appealed to the fuel procurement and distribution authority on May 13, and got an assurance that its fuel needs would be attended to.
By the time the city council received a further 10,000 liters of gas and 30,000 liters of diesel Thursday, all the essential service vehicles had run dry and had not been operational for two days.
The city official says the council is now rationing fuel to non-essential service vehicles to keep the ambulances, fire engines and garbage collectors on the road. Mountains of garbage are now a feature of the city, which used to be one of the cleanest in Africa.
Besides catering to the city's more than two million inhabitants, the fire engines have to respond to disasters such as road accidents, sometimes more than 100 kilometers beyond the city limits.