Access to safe water improves in rural areas

By Charity Ruzvidzo

Harare – Zimbabwe continues to prioritise its citizen’s health as evidenced by the increase in access to improved sources of water and sanitation in the rural areas.

Failure to access safe and clean water leads to the outbreak of waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

According to the latest Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report, nationally, access to improved safe drinking water increased to 73 percent in rural areas.

“The national average for access to improved water sources increased marginally from 71 percent in 2016 to 73 percent in 2017. There was a general increase in all provinces, with the exception of Mashonaland West, Matabeleland North and Masvingo,” reads the report.

Improved drinking water sources are defined by the quality of water they produce and are protected from fecal contamination by the nature of their construction to protect from outside contamination.

Such sources include piped water into dwelling, public tap, borehole, protected dug well, protected spring and rainwater collection.

Richard Sibanda, a medical practitioner in Harare, said the increase was commendable though more still needed to be done.

  “In Zimbabwe, a large number of people have access to basic drinking water and sanitation services, but these services do not necessarily provide safe water and sanitation. It is good to note that there is an increase in the number of those accessing safe water but we need to provide safe water for everyone,” he said.

Dr Sibanda said children are more vulnerable to contaminated water which leads to diseases such as diarrhoea.

The ZimVAC report also said access to improved sanitation increased.

“The proportion of households which accessed improved sanitation facilities was 61 percent. Matabeleland North Province had the lowest proportion of households with access to improved sanitation at 42percent,” read the report.

Improved sanitation facilities include flush or pour toilet latrines, blair ventilated improved pits, pit latrines with slab and upgradeable blair latrine.

They ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact.

Dr Sibanda called upon government and nongovernmental organisations to work together in building sanitation infrastructure in rural areas.

  “We still have quite a large population in the rural areas resorting to open defecation due to lack of sanitation infrastructure. It must be a collective effort for government and other private companies to assist in building sanitation infrastructure.

  “A lot of people are in danger, health wise, as there are homes, healthcare facilities and schools that still lack soap and water for hand washing. This exposes them to diseases,” said the medical practitioner.

Meanwhile, the report said open defecation was practiced by 30 percent of households nationally, while Matabeleland North had the highest 55 percent.

This figure, according to health experts, needs agent intervention.

In 2008, the country experienced cholera outbreaks which led to the loss of many lives in the remote areas, partly caused by open defecation and drinking contaminated water.

Early this year, the country also recorded a typhoid outbreak which by early January had acclaimed two lives.

WHO says the provision of improved water sources and sanitation reduces mortality rate.

It also contributes to a country’s economic development.

The UN agency further notes that in most rural areas, women are tasked with the responsibility of providing water.

Improved safe water sources lessen the burden for women who also have to take care of their families who might suffer from contaminated water.

Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association advocates for access to improved water sources for women and also brings the discourse of water to the concept proximity.

The association argues that if water sources are within walking distances for women to access, it limits chances of women being susceptible to rape, sexual harassment and robberies. Nearness of improved water sources also leads to women empowerment as they will be able to focus on other development projects.

Zimbabwe has committed to the attainment of sustainable development goals for universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation by 2030.

While huge strides have been made in improving access to drinking water and hygiene provision, a lot needs to be done to provide safe water for all.

September 2017
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