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Zimbabwe, 27 March 2015: Rehabilitation of water supply and sanitation services changes lives

© UNICEF/2015/Nyamanhindi
Like all other sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy, urban water supply and sewerage services have faced serious challenges due to population pressure and the economic downturn of the past decade.

By Richard Nyamanhindi

Shedra Siwela aged 48, a mother of four opens a water tap on her kitchen sink to wash her hands as she starts to prepare for the afternoon meal. A few years ago, Shedra and her female colleagues in Tshovani high density suburb in Chiredzi, Masvingo Province in Zimbabwe would have had to walk at least three kilometres to fetch water from the nearest water point.

“We now have piped water at home and we no longer have to walk long distances when we feel thirsty or need to take a bath or use the toilet. The water is now very safe to drink and we can now wash our hands after using the toilet,” said Shedra.

There has been a remarkable change in the lives of the more than 30, 000 residents in the town, who now have access to safe drinking water following the rehabilitation of the water supply infrastructure and sewerage systems with funding by the Australian Government between 2009 and 2014.

Like all other sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy, urban water supply and sewerage services have faced serious challenges due to population pressure and the economic downturn of the past decade. Aging infrastructure, limited revenues to operate and maintain the systems, billing and collection challenges, including faulty or non-existent water meters and reduced willingness and ability to pay for unreliable and low quality services are among the challenges faced by urban local authorities such as Chiredzi Town Council.

In the context of these challenges, Chiredzi Town Council was one of the recipients of the Australian Government supported Emergency Rehabilitation and Risk Reduction (ER&RR) Programme from 2009-2014 and the Small Towns WASH Programme (2013-2016) which is benefitting 14 Small Towns in Zimbabwe. The project is providing improved access to water and sanitation and education on issues relating to hygiene, health and sanitation. In Chiredzi, the project is implemented by UNICEF in partnership with World Vision.

As a result of the project, the volume of water produced by the Water Treatment Plant has doubled (from 5ML/d to 10Ml/d) and quality improved, ensuring residents have increased access to safe and potable water. The water pumping system is now providing piped water to Chiredzi Town and the reliability of the water supply system has been increased through provision of sufficient pumps with standby capacity available.

Rehabilitation of sewerage pipes and waste stabilization ponds for the treatment of waste water has seen significant reduction in contamination by sewerage of the environment in high density arears such as Tshovani, as well increasing from 2Ml/d to 6.8Ml/d in the amount of sewerage that is treated at the treatment ponds

According to Mr. Wesley Kauma, the Chiredzi Town Engineer, the rehabilitation of the water works has had a positive impact on the town’s estimated 30,000 residents and the surrounding communities.

“Women used to walk distances of up to two kilometers just to get water. This used to disrupt other household chores as women and children spent more time walking to and from the nearest water point,” Kauma said.

Queen Chauke (52), is a mother of six children and a resident of Tshovani. Before the rehabilitation of the water supply system, she faced the daunting task of making up to three trips a day to fetch water for domestic use.

“Before the project, we were forced to fetch water at a water point in the next suburb, about three kilometres from here. We would spend more time fetching water and leaving very little time to do anything else” she narrated.

The project has made successes and improved the lives of Chiredzi’s residents but there are still a number of challenges that provided important lessons when implementing WASH related projects. For instance, residents still believe that they should get water for free despite receiving services on a regular basis. Broken down household water meters have also meant less collection of revenue for the town council.

Whilst the project may have made inroads in addressing the plight faced by residents in Chiredzi, a more concerted effort involving public and private partnerships to reach a wider target and for sustainability needs further exploration.




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