Date Published: 4 October 2010

Zimbabwe water and sanitation sector to receive a boost

Health News from around the world.

National Action Committee set to strengthen the revitalization of the WASH sector

In a collective move to avert the recurrence of waterborne diseases and rehabilitate the country's water, sanitation and hygiene sector, the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe today announced the rejuvenation of the National Action Committee (NAC), an inter-ministerial committee charged with overall coordination of the sector.

Zimbabwe's water supply and sanitation services, once a source of national pride, have suffered a major collapse in both urban and rural areas which contributed to the 2008/2009 cholera epidemic that claimed more than 4,000 lives. According to UNICEF/WHO figures 83% of Zimbabweans have access to improved water and 40% had access to improved sanitation.

Yet in recent years, the combination of aging equipment, lack of regular power to operate water pumps and a shortage of skilled technicians to manage repairs has caused taps in urban areas to often run dry and left millions of people without access to a regular supply of safe water.

The situation in rural areas is even more acute, as about 60% of pumps are broken and an estimated 2.1 million people do not have access to improved water sources while about one-third of the population practices open defecation.

To overcome these challenges and to reach the Millennium Development Goals on water, sanitation and hygiene, the country needs an investment of $400 million per year. So far only around $100 million is available.

Launched under the theme ?Revitalising water, sanitation and hygiene for national development?, NAC has been mandated by cabinet as the co-ordinating body and official governance structure in water and sanitation. It is made up of nine ministries and led by Ministry of Water Resources and Development, with support from the international donor community, UNICEF and the World Bank.

If we are to succeed in improving the quality of water and sanitation services for all Zimbabweans, then effective coordination and management is critical,”said the Minister of Water Resources and Development, Hon. Samuel Sipepa Nkomo.

Better coordination has already helped to reduce the number of cholera cases this year and also made sure services are targeted where they are needed most.?

Despite the challenges facing Zimbabwe, tremendous achievements have been realized in the past twelve months. As of September this year, 900 cholera cases and 25 deaths have been reported compared to almost 100,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths in 2008/2009. This has been a result of consistent sector efforts to address the underlying causes of cholera by the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe in partnership with key stakeholders including the international donor community. These efforts include:

  • provision of non-food items including soap, water purification tablets and hygiene promotion material to over 600,000 households;
  • continued provision of essential water treatment chemicals to 20 urban councils and growth points and small towns since early 2009 benefiting about 4 million people at a cost of over $7 million;
  • rehabilitation of over 1000 boreholes benefiting over 250,000 people.

Furthermore, assessment of water and sanitation infrastructure in 18 towns to identify quick-win emergency rehabilitation works has been carried out. Based on these assessments, rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems has been completed or ongoing in Harare, Bulawayo, Beitbridge, Chipinge, Chinhoyi, Gweru, Mutare, Kadoma, Chegutu, Rusape, Marondera.

Over the next two years, NAC will map out the key priorities in the sector and coordinate the response in three sub-sectors: rural water, sanitation and hygiene; urban water, sanitation and hygiene; and water resources management. It is hoped that it can also mobilise more funds to the sector.

Diarrhoeal diseases, often caused by poor access to safe water, lack of adequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices, are a major cause of deaths amongst children.”said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Peter Salama.

The revitalization of the National Action Committee is an important step as we seek to rebuild services in this critical sector and prevent waterborne diseases. It also has multiple effects on the quality of life, especially in poor communities. Women have to spend less time searching for water and children are healthier.?

Although the NAC was first established in the early 1990s for the rural water and sanitation programme, in the last decade, due to lack of resources, it has not been able to perform effectively and many earlier policies have not been updated. In addition, its mandate did not include the urban and water resources management sub-sectors. After the cholera outbreak in 2008, rehabilitating the water and sanitation facilities, especially in urban areas, has been a key priority. It is expected that the NAC will now be better able to coordinate these efforts to mitigate the threat of waterborne diseases and also refocus efforts in rural areas, where coverage is still low.

The National Action Committee is made up of the Ministries of Water Resources Development and Management; Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development; Health and Child Welfare; Local Government, Rural and Urban Development; Agriculture; Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development; Environment; Education Sport, Arts and Culture and Industry and Commerce.

" The World Bank is engaged in critical stakeholder dialogue on how Zimbabwe can rebuild a well functioning and efficient water resource management system that meets domestic and other national needs,”said World Bank Operations Officer Samuel Taffesse .

We are currently working with other donors under an Analytical Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support analytical work and technical assistance in support of accelerated and improved policy-making in the water sector."


Source: UNICEF Website, Press Release.

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