Villagers in Chipinge rural Ward 21 are finding it hard to get clean water as the area is in dire shortage of boreholes. The country’s constitution enshrines water as a basic human right that is essential for a healthy life.
“Every person has a right to safe, clean, potable water, sufficient food and the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right,” reads Section 77 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution Amendment number 20.
World Health Organisation (WHO), reports that an individual wants at least 20 to 50 litres of clean water a day for drinking and hygiene.
WHO fact sheet on access to water shows that at least 1.8 billion people in the world use a drinking water source that is contaminated. Globally, contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 502 000 diarrheal deaths each year (https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/water).
According to data published by WHO in 2018 Diarrhea related deaths in Zimbabwe reached 5,323 or 4.48% of total deaths and the country is positioned at number 46 in the world.
Speaking to the ZimSentinel, ward 21 councilor Lucas Muchinani, said people and livestock in the ward are forced to trek long distances to access the precious liquid.
“The ward is facing serious water challenges; people are walking long distances to fetch clean water. Some people walk up to 4 kilometers to get water for domestic and agricultural activities.
“Ward 21 is made up of 21 village heads and it has 42 boreholes. Some of these boreholes are defunct,” said Muchinani.
He also said some of the mal-functioning boreholes were affected by Cyclone Idai and they need to be rehabilitated.
“Some boreholes in the area collapsed due to the impact of Cyclone Idai and they need to be flushed. Areas like Manyezu and Rimbi are the ones most affected. The ward also has some areas that have never had any borehole since Independence. I am appealing to the government and its stakeholders to assist,” he said.
In March 2019, the Eastern highlands were extensively hit by Cyclone Idai that destroyed lives, livelihoods and infrastructure.
When the disaster struck, the United States government, International relief organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), channeled over US$2.5 million relief funds to Zimbabwe towards the assistance of Cyclone Idai victims.
GOAL Zimbabwe also donated $US100 000 towards the water, sanitation, hygiene, and shelter for individuals in cyclone-hit areas of the eastern province.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project report stated that peace and security of women and young girls who spend countless hours waiting in long queues to draw water is unfortunately not guaranteed. (https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/water-crisis-fact-sheet-no-2-2019)
Memory Khosa who resides in Rimbi area (ward 21) where ZINWA water supply is also said to be a problem told ZimSentinel that women in the ward are in a dire situation.
“Rural communities in Ward 21 are facing challenges to access clean water. Villagers in Manyezu area are walking long distances to get clean water at Rimbi Business Centre where there are a few boreholes and ZINWA water supply. When there is no ZINWA water at the Business centre, the few boreholes available get overwhelmed, women and girls spend about 3 hours at the boreholes fetching only 2 buckets of water. This problem is affecting women and girls mostly,” said Khosa.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), states that clean water, basic sanitation and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of children. (www.unicef.org/zimbabwe/water-sanitation-and-hygiene-wash)
Rimbi business center is said to have 2 primaries and a secondary school with others like Nyazvikari, Musikavanhu and Tuzika dotted around the ward.
Khosa added that the water crisis that is ravaging ward 21 is also affecting school pupils as some are now forced to stand in long queues to draw water from the school borehole to home after school.
“The problem is even affecting the academic life of children in this ward. Some learners carry water containers from home to school so that they can draw water for home use at the school borehole after school time. The borehole is at Rimbi primary school. Most children stand in long water queues after school, when they reach home they are not able to do their home works due to exhaustion,” added Khosa.
Ronica Chitore a female villager in Manyezu area said hygiene is now a thing that they only saw in their dreams.
“As women, we are being affected by the water challenge. We are no longer able to execute house chores properly we are now spending more hours at the borehole. In Manyezu area we do not have boreholes, our borehole broke down about 2 years ago we are now going to Rimbi Business Centre which is about 2 kilometers away. We are no longer even practicing gardening. Hygiene is now a dream in our homes,” lamented Chitore.
Women in ward 21 also said they are finding it difficult to practice social distance at the few boreholes that are functional and they are calling for the responsible authorities to address their plight.
During this Covid-19 era, women and youths in rural areas rely on community gardens for income-generating projects and also as a source of food hence water scarcity is affecting livelihoods.