The Sunday Mail
By 6am, a winding — if somewhat disorderly — line has formed as women and children jostle for their turn to draw water from the shallow riverbed well in Chivi, Masvingo province.
The water is drawn in unhygienic conditions, exposing people to diseases such as diarrhoea.
As many as 40 families depend on this well for water.
In Zimbabwe, hundreds of thousands of households do not have access to clean water.
Government, through the Ministry of Health and Child Care and working with such partners as Practical Action, the International Federation for Red Cross and DAPP among others, has initiated programmes that seek to address the underlying challenges related to water, sanitation and hygiene.
One such programme, the European Union Water Facility Programme, has transformed rural livelihoods in Zimbabwe.
Villagers in Masvingo’s Chivi, Mwenezi and Gwanda in Matebeleland South Province are some of its beneficiaries.
Recently, The Sunday Mail Extra visited some of the projects and talked to beneficiaries.
Mrs Felistus Chizanga, of Maramwidze Village, Chivi chronicled how the project transformed the community.
“Apart from rehabilitating the borehole, we were also taught to be hygienic. In the past, the majority of the people did not have toilets and access to clean water. Without the toilets, people would relieve themselves in the bush and in rivers, where they also fetched their water,” Mrs Chizanga said.
She said in the past, many villagers were affected by such water-borne diseases as cholera and diarrhoea.
“Since the introduction of the programme, not a single soul has been lost due to water-borne diseases. This programme should have been started a long time ago,” added Mr Chizanga.
Boreholes have been rehabilitated in Masvingo’s Mwenezi district where villagers used to walk more than three kilometres to fetch water.
“We used to walk long distances to fetch safe, clean water. Most villagers resorted to drinking water from unprotected sources, resulting in many people falling sick. This programme is God-given,” said Mrs Mary Mangoma of Chamandaza Village.
Innovative ways of extracting water have also been developed in Gwanda.
A simple technology which siphon water from dams and dry river beds has also been introduced.
A sub-surface abstraction equipment is installed in dry riverbeds and sucks water out of sand.
One major advantage of this type of technology is that the system is not open to contamination and water is naturally filtered and cleaned.
Residents were also mentored on how to make, use and fix these low-cost water abstraction mechanisms for their community’s self-reliance.
Mrs Sikhatele Moyo of Gwanda said the introduction of the new technology has made life easier for locals.
“Villagers used to literally fight for water. Now the queues and fights are a thing of the past,” a beaming Mrs Moyo said.
Practical Action Southern Africa is one of the major players in the community projects.
Mrs Martha Munyoro Katsi, the organisation’s knowledge management and communications officer, said they wanted to address the underlying challenges facing water, sanitation and hygiene in Zimbabwe.
“We hope to achieve this through an integrated approach that embraces the three fundamental pillars of water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH). There is need for improved access to sanitation, access to clean and safe drinking water and, health and hygiene education,” Mrs Munyoro Katsi said.
According to Mrs Katsi, the broad objective of the WASH project is to contribute to the attainment of some of the Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to addresses challenges associated with water and sanitation.
Section 77(a) of Zimbabwe’s Constitution provides that every person has the right to safe and clean water.
The Constitution also further enshrines that every citizen has a right to a clean environment, and that measures must be taken to prevent pollution. According to Mr Zivanayi Kisimisi, Practical Action`s project Manager, his organisation has so far help establish 4 125 water-point management committees in the areas that the organisation is working in.
The committees are responsible for mobilising resources and overseeing the maintenance of the water points.
“Practical Action Southern Africa seeks to adapt and promote community-led approaches as a model for complimenting other sustainable service delivery models of safe water, adequate sanitation and application of health and hygiene practices in various rural districts,” Mr Kisimisi said.
Mr Kisimisi said 31 new boreholes were drilled and 712 water points repaired.
Under the project, 122 builders were trained and are now generating income by constructing toilets in their areas.
More than 200 school health masters were trained in Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PHHE).
Community health clubs were formed with bill boards with messages on hygiene being erected.
Villagers have been taught how to effectively transmit messages through podcasting. A podcast is a form of digital media which consists of audio, video and digital radio.
Podcasting has enabled dissemination of high quality life-saving and hygiene messages in Shona and Ndebele. Mr Kisimisi said the use of digital media had reduced the load on health workers.
“Another notable milestone is that podcasting has eased or reduced the workload of the local public health workers. Locally trained knowledge workers are now in charge of information dissemination in their communities and this leads to sustainability,” Mr Kisimisi said.
The organisation has also adopted use of an audio MP3 player and speaker to disseminate recorded messages in local languages targeting rural communities where communications infrastructure is poor or non-existent.
According to Mr Siqalisile Masuku an Environmental Health Technician with Ministry of Health and Child Care in Gwanda district, the ministry has been facing problems in its outreach programmes as a result of insufficient financial and human resources.
“These devices have demonstrated to be convenient in allowing the ministry to spread health-related knowledge and information to communities in Gwanda. We can no-longer talk of budgets and inadequate human resources because this one device can cover this vast district. We are now able to record the knowledge which is then loaded on the devices for wider sharing,” said Mr Masuku.