Health and hygiene suffer from $700m-plus shortfall

Every year since 2010, Government has failed to meet its hygiene improvement goals because of an annual $700m gap in the budget, according to the deputy environment, water and climate minister, Simon Musanhu.

A standard blair-toilet. More of these would cut the number of people who have to defecate in the bush – a practice that leads to environmental damage and disease.
A standard blair-toilet. More of these would cut the number of people who have to defecate in the bush – a practice that leads to environmental damage and disease.

“The investment gap required to meet the Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) related millennium and development goals can be estimated per year to be as large as $365m for water and $336m for sanitation since 2010,” he said at the launch of the National Sanitation Week and Global Hand-Washing Day in Maramba last week.

Musanhu’s ministry chairs the National Action Committee for WASH, which includes other relevant ministries, development partners and stakeholders.

Musanhu said UNICEF was working on a $60m rural water and sanitation supply programme aimed at repairing boreholes and drilling new ones.

“Anecdotal evidence indicates that over 75 per cent of the 65,000 hand pumps installed in the country are not functional at any given time,” he said.

“While 73 per cent of Zimbabweans use improved drinking water sources, 60 per cent have access to improved sanitation facilities and 33 per cent defecate in the open,” he added.

Government early this year launched a community-based scheme to build standard latrines.

“Since the UNICEF-funded WASH project is targeting 33 districts of five rural provinces, government beginning this year chipped in to assist the districts of Mashonaland East and Central Provinces, where the most vulnerable districts were given $215,000 each.

“The funds are used mainly for training villagers how to build standard latrines and for water sources and general hygiene,” said the provincial coordinator, Martin Rushizha.

In Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe district, out of 26,926 households only 5,198 have proper toilets. In Chichetu village, which has 63 homesteads, only 17 had latrines.

Village head Sandukai Chichetu, who is also a builder trained under the government’s WASH programme, said they were making bricks to build a proper blair-toilet at every homestead.

“With our own resources we managed to construct a proper latrine with bathing and hand-washing facilities for our most aged couple, who live with three orphans. The toilet can last for 25 years and costs only $72,” he said.

“We now have 35 at various levels of construction and hope that by December every homestead will own a toilet,” added Chichetu.

Minister for Mashonaland East Simbaneuta Mudarikwa also spoke at the event: “The war ended here in 1979 but our free people are still going back to the bush to take cover for defecation. We need to build our toilets to avoid polluting our environment and water sources, and to prevent loss of life through diarrheal diseases,” he said.

UNICEF country representative Reza Hossaini said diarrhoea caused by inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene practices and drinking unsafe water claims 2m children worldwide every year.

Rhoda Hodzi and husband Nhamo Kangwena in the middle, flanked by David Parirenyatwa and Sandukai Chicheni on the right, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa and UNICEF representative Reza Hossaini.
Rhoda Hodzi and husband Nhamo Kangwena in the middle, flanked by David Parirenyatwa and Sandukai Chicheni on the right, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa and UNICEF representative Reza Hossaini.

“The picture in Zimbabwe is equally worrying: 4,000 children die every year. This is hard to accept especially when you consider that the majority of these deaths could be easily avoided if everybody heeded the call to wash their hands with soap,” he said.

Hossaini said UNICEF was also creating a $30m urban water and sanitation programme financed by the governments of Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Hand-washing with soap has been proven to reduce diarrhoeal diseases by more than 40 per cent, making it one of the most cost-effective interventions for reducing child deaths.

Minister of health and child care David Parirenyatwa, who was guest of honour standing in for President Robert Mugabe, said Zimbabwe was off-track in achieving the 1990-2015 target of cutting by half number of households without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

“There are challenges, which range from lack of finances, uncoordinated planning and implementation, to lack of meaningful community involvement and participation. These are, however, not insurmountable and we need to address them by working closely together,” he said.

According to the Multiple Indicator Monitoring Survey of 2009, 48 per cent of rural households use the bush as a toilet. The survey also showed that 80 per cent of rural households used untreated or boiled water for domestic purposes.

Besides menacing the environment, open defecation can cause diseases like cholera, typhoid, dysentery and common diarrhoea, it also leads to bilharzia, tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, skin and eye infections.

Post published in: Health

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