Speaking at the launch of the National Action Committee (NAC) on Water, a programme aimed at revitalising water, sanitation and hygiene in the country, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) representative Dr Peter Salama said a lot still needs to be done to avoid the recurrence of the cholera epidemic of 2008.
“More than 60 percent of hand pumps in rural areas require repairs and more than 50 percent of rural population practises open defecation as their only form of sanitation,” said Salama.
He, however, acknowledged the progress that had been made in this sector so far which ensured that 73 percent of Zimbabweans now had access to improved water while 60
percent could now access improved sanitary facilities.
Zimbabwe witnessed the worst cholera outbreak in the country’s history in 2008, which recorded more than 100 000 cases and 4 000 deaths. At the time most suburbs around the country went without water and in most cases depended on water supplies from UNICEF and other donor agencies.
But since the inauguration of the inclusive government the cases of cholera have dramatically dropped down to about 1000 while only 25 deaths were reported so far this year.
“In Zimbabwe poor water and sanitation is increasingly a problem concentrated in and borne by the poorest, while the richest one fifth of the population have virtually universal coverage of safe water and sanitation services.”
The UNICEF official added that children in Zimbabwe died from simple diarrhoeal diseases although the deaths – like those caused by cholera – did not make international headlines.
Turning onto the country’s response to the UN set targets of achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG)s, one of which refers to the universal access to clean water and sanitation, Salama said, “One of the off track goals for Zimbabwe is sanitation .”
Speaking at the same occasion the Minister of Water Resources and Development Samuel Sipepa Nkomo said his ministry was facing problems in getting many water projects on stream due to financial problems.
“The programme to resuscitate water infrastructure will need US$400 million a year but we only have $ 100 million. The challenges are really on the financing side,” said Nkomo.
Several water projects have been on the cards before and after independence in 1980. Among some of the most outstanding are the Matebeleland Zambezi Water Project, Gwayi-Shangani Dam, Mundi-Mataga and Kunzvi Dam.
The NAC was first established in the early 1990s for the rural water and sanitation programme but has not been functional during the last decades due to lack of resources.
UNICEF says a combination of aging equipment, lack of regular power to operate water pumps and a shortage of skilled technicians to manage repairs has meant that that taps in urban areas often go dry while about 2, 1 million rural dwellers go without water due to broken water pumps.