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Rural communities in Zimbabwe continue to face water and sanitation challenges – study.

© UNICEF 2014
WASH still remains a great challenge in rural Zimbabwe

By Richard Nyamanhindi

HARARE, Zimbabwe, 30 April 2014 – Many rural communities in Zimbabwe continue to face a number of water, sanitation and hygiene challenges, with many women and children in some communities still having to walk 5-10 kilometres to get access to clean and safe water.

In a new study released today – ‘A Baseline Survey to Determine Current WASH Status in 33 Rural Districts in Zimbabwe’ – the Government of Zimbabwe and UNICEF notes that they are serious gender issues in water collection and water point committees and open defecation continues to be a huge challenge in communities in Matebelaland South Province.

Presenting the findings during a Brown Bag Series at UNICEF, one of the researchers, Tendayi Kureya said that “Access to safe and clean drinking water is a basic human right and is essential for achieving gender equality, sustainable development and poverty alleviation if Zimbabwe is going to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

The study which was carried out in 33 Rural Districts of Mashonaland West, Matebeleland South and North, Masvingo and the Midlands notes that 65.2 percent of the 12,416 households that were interviewed access their drinking water from improved sources with the main responsibility for carrying water resting with adult women.

Elderly women (46.6 percent) and women of other age groups (20.2 percent) are most affected by difficulties in accessing household drinking water – with many still walking for more than 5 kilometres to access clean and safe water.

“It is us women mostly affected by low coverage of water facilities. Men expect us to provide them with water to bath and for all other purposes…,” said one respondent during the research.

Related to hygiene and sanitation, the study notes that there are whole villages without a single latrine and practice open defecation. Boys practice open defecation most. Interesting to note is that 45 percent of the households that practice open defecation use paper for anal cleansing, 12 percent use toilet paper, 33 percent use leaves, grass, sticks, stones or corn cobs and 6 percent of the households use nothing. Nearly 30 percent of the households that were interviewed still do not wash their hands after using the toilet.

The study also looked at hygiene in schools and found that 37.5 percent of the latrines in schools had no hand washing facilities and that the main hand washing agent was water only (45 percent of all schools) and water and soap (11 percent). A total of 96 percent of the schools latrine squat holes were not covered with lids.

The study recommended that families should invest more in improving their homes by investing in water and sanitation facilities, especially in building more toilets on the household premises and educating all members of the family to use them.

Another recommendation was that more health education is needed on a range of WASH topics such as safe storage of water in containers, treatment of water for drinking purposes, awareness that borehole water may also need treatment since may be contaminated, and how to correctly construct toilets.

Last but not the least, the study also recommended behaviour change communication aimed at reducing open defecation and this should target boys as a priority group.

The baseline study is part of the Rural WASH project being implemented by UNICEF and the government of Zimbabwe in partnership with various NGOs and the private sector. The project will run from 2012‐2016 and is funded by DFID (UKAID) and Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC).

The Government of Zimbabwe is represented through the National Action Committee (NAC) for the WASH Sector which provides holistic national sector policy direction and guidance. The NAC is made up of the permanent secretaries from several ministries with the Permanent Secretary for Environment, Water and Climate being the chairperson.

The project aims to provide access to and use of safe water supply and improved sanitation for about 2,375,000 and 1,140,000 people respectively in 33 rural districts in five Provinces of Zimbabwe. 



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