Moving around the vertically inclined alleys of Gweru, one is greeted by a strong wafting stench of human waste, carelessly disposed of by illegal ven- dors and common folk who fre- quent the city on a daily basis to conduct their ignoble businesses.For 39-year-old Emelda Chihombe who is a vendor at the old railway line “Kunjanji’, the stench of fecal matter and urine is no longer an issue, strangely, she has become used to co-exist with human waste, saying she cannot do anything about it.”Down here at the old rail- way line, we have no toilets and it’s now common for people to relieve themselves in the open or in plastic bags or even old newspapers in which they wrap up their waste and just throw it anywhere.”You see the only toilets ac- cessible to us are located at Kudzanai bus terminus and it’s a pay toilet, vendors can’t just pay ZWL450 to poo, they can’t pay to poo, they use the avail- able alleys and nearby bushy area to relieve themselves,” she said.The trend of switching to open defecation has also be- come common, even common at the center of the city between OK and Pick n’ Pay. Daniel Mambo, a 27-year-old money changer, said the city’s public toilets are apparently not open to the public anymore.”People just sneak behind al- leys to relieve themselves even during the day and this is a serious health hazard. You see us working here in the open and think we have toilets to relieve ourselves. There is nothing of that sort anymore; people just abandon their mess anywhere now,We no longer have public toi- lets in the city, all of them are pay toilets, the only free toilet is located at TM rank, however, we give credit to our fast food outlets in the city who have be- come our source of public toileting,” he said.Late last year, Ward 13 Councilor Catherine Mhondiwa made a clarion call upon the City of Gweru to provide free publictoilets in the CBD.”We have toilets in the CBDbut most of them are now pay toilets, this has serious conse- quences on the well-being of residents as it pauses a health threat to members of the public who now toilet in the open since they have no places to relieve themselves,” said Councilor Mhondiwa at a full council meeting.Another official in the Health Ministry, requesting anonymity, said: “Local authorities in urban areas are to blame for the open defecation problem in cities and towns and the council authori- ties should invest more in ad- dressing the worsening sanitation crisis before it reaches a catastrophic level.”Commenting on the matter, City of Gweru Public Relations Officer Ms Vimbai Chingwaramusee said the city was anti-illegal vending and en- couraged vendors to sell from designated areas where there are toilets.”First and foremost as a local authority, we are anti-illegal vending, we encourage informal traders to sell their wares at the legally designated area where we have set up toilets and places, where there are no toilets, are illegal vending sites, informal traders should apply to the local authority to get a stall at a place that is designated with is legal where there are ablution facili- ties.However, those who would have visited the CBD should make use of public toilets in town, for example, we have a toilet at TM Rank, we have a toilet in the CBD opposite OK and others at Kudzanai Bus Ter- minus, said ChingwaramuseeOpen defecation refers to the practice of defecating in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water, or other open spaces. it contami- nates sources of drinking water and spreads diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and dysentery.The World Health Organization estimates that inadequate sanitation causes 432,000 diarrheal deaths annually Worldwide.Above all, defecating in the open is an affront to human dignity.