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Towards an Open Defecation free Community

UNICEF Zimbabwe/2012
© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2012
Mekani, holding her son Maibonkosi

By Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa

7 November 2012; Hwange  - Nineteen year old Mekani Ndlovu from Matoba Village in Hwange District has always relied on using the bush when in need of a toilet.  As she was growing up, her mother told her that it was too expensive for the family to build a toilet.  Now she is staying at the Sibelo Homestead, where she was married into, and again resources have barred this family from building a toilet. Mekani tells of the lack of privacy and discomfort associated with defecating in the bush.

“It is especially difficult for a daughter in-law as you have to be as far away from the in laws as possible.  When the need arises, I take a walk to that bush and try and hide,” says a coy Mekani as she points to the lone bush situated about 500meters from the homestead.   “It is very difficult because you think you are hiding, then you hear something shuffling behind you and you must quickly stop because you think it could be your father in law.”

This unsettling exercise will soon be a thing of the past for this mother of 2year old Maibhonkosi.  Within a few days’ time, a toilet being constructed on the Sibelo homestead using their own resources will be ready for use. She is ecstatic that her son’s generation has been saved from the harshness, lack of privacy and disease risk associated with staying in a homestead that has no toilet.

Matoba Village is one of the villages in Hwange being supported to promote an Open Defecation Free community. Under the Zimbabwe Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (ZimCATS) project, UNICEF, together with Government and Civil Society partners, are encouraging community members to build their latrines using locally available and natural materials and also to use their own innovations while they save money for the construction of a standard latrine.  Through a financial backing from the Government of Australia, the ZimCATS project is set to create a demand for sanitation facilities and shunning the practice of open defecation.

The project was started against the background of worrying statistics highlighting huge discrepancies in the provision of adequate sanitation in Zimbabwe.  More than 69% of rural households do not have improved sanitation facilities, and 39% of them practice open defecation. At the point of triggering the project in 2011, less than 5% of the households in Matoba village had alatrine. Most households cited limitation of financial resources as reason for not having a toilet.

UNICEF Zimbabwe/2012
© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2012
SAG member encouraging Mekina to look ahead and start planning for a permanent structure.

An ideal brick and cement structure would require families to source about $100 for the 6 bags of cement and bricks required.  This amount is beyond the reach of these impoverished families who have no source of income. They are mostly unemployed and the arid region does not support any agricultural activities. 

Now families are being encouraged to source enough money for at least one bag of cement, which will support the construction and lining of a 1.6m by 2m toilet pit.  As families try and put resources together, a temporary super structure of plastic, thatch or poles and dagga, can be erected to enclose the pit.

Today, sacks and poles have been used in building a temporary super structure at the Sibelo homestead. It is this makeshift cubicle which will bring some privacy and decency when defecating and will further protect the household from imminent diseases associated with improper fecal disposal.

“Provision of standard sanitation facilities is a basic human right which is pivotal in UNICEF’s achievement of key results for women and children,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Gianni Murzzi.  “Diarrhoeal diseases, which result mainly from poor water and sanitation facilities, account for the unnecessary loss of life, especially among children under five. Each year in Zimbabwe 4000 children die from diarrhoea.”

A critical instrument in the roll out of the CATS project has been setting up of Sanitation Action Groups (SAG), a team of dedicated locally based cadres instituted to get community buy-in and to further support community initiatives in the building of the super structures. Lingani Mudimba, Chairman of the SAG in Matoba is confident that once a temporary structure is in place, community members are encouraged to proceed with the construction of a standard UBVIP. So far, more than 80 % of the homesteads in Matoba Village are nearing finalisation of at least their temporary superstructures.



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