7 March 2017
HEALTH partners are worried by the increase in open defecation in the country at a time of floods.
They argue that poor sanitation could trigger a cholera outbreak.
According to Head of Mission for the Department of International Development (DFID), Annabel Gerry, the floods, combined with open defecation, compromise the provision of equitable and sustainable access to clean water.
Speaking during the announcement of a DFID extension grant for rural wash programme, she envisaged a Zimbabwe where every household in the rural areas will have a latrine.
“The effects of climate change including drought last year, and floods this year, have affected water and sanitation infrastructure in many places in the country and are increasing strains on access.
“Many people in rural areas are still practising open defecation and this is painstaking work as I saw when I visited an ‘open defecation free’ village in Gokwe South last September.
“The UK funding will support rehabilitation and restoration of water point, promoting demand led sanitation, WASH sector coordination and capacity building,” said the Head of Mission.
According to UNICEF, over 40 percent of people in rural areas are still practising open defecation, exposing themselves to the risk of contracting diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases in the wake of persistent rains.
Gerry also expressed concern over the significant gaps in the provision of clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene at time when the country is still fighting typhoid, which has since October 2016 affected many lives.
“At least 32 percent of people in rural Zimbabwe do not have access to improved source of drinking water. 52 percent do not have access to safe sanitation facilities, and this has increased vulnerability to diseases.
“In my visit to Mbare early this month, I saw how poor access to safe drinking water and poor sanitation continue to put many Zimbabweans at very high risk of disease. Nobody wants a repeat of what happened between 2008 and 2009, when many lives were lost to cholera. But the risks are still there,” added Gerry.
The Head of Mission bemoaned the strong gender imbalance that continued to exist which has seen girls and women shoulder the major responsibility in household water collection and use.
“This has seen girls missing class, losing productive time and sometimes even put themselves in danger accessing water from isolated sources.”
DFID has also called on the Government to explore strategies to ensure sustainability of the WASH programme to ensure the provision of clean water and sanitation
DFID Zimbabwe is supporting the country through the United Nations and Children’s Fund to provide equitable and sustainable access to clean water, improved sanitation and adoption of good hygiene practices among the poor and vulnerable rural population.