Zimbabwe: Water Woes - Council Sleeping On the Job

17 September 2019

Some residential areas in Harare have been hit by diarrhoea outbreaks due to lack of proper sanitation compounded by inadequate clean and safe water.

Harare City Council's inefficiency in the provision of potable water for residents has forced some to access the precious liquid from unprotected sources, leading to frequent outbreaks of water-borne diseases.

City of Harare's mandate is to provide residents with affordable quality water and waste water services all the time. However, what prevails on the ground tells a different story.

The Herald of September 13 reported that there has been an increase in the number of diarrhoea cases in Dzivaresekwa 3 and Dzivaresekwa Extension due to water challenges.

Residents travel for kilometres in search of clean water, which they fail to get most of the time. Some low-density suburbs, for example Highlands, have gone without water supplies for more than four months. The general belief is that families living in the leafy suburbs can afford to drill boreholes of their own.

While people are exposed to water challenges, sewer systems run unattended to in Warren Park. Alternatively, pouring out or flooding of sewer systems can cause entirely untreated waste to enter rivers and other water sources, causing them to become polluted.

With the ever-rising cost of drugs in pharmacies, it is difficult for people to control diarrhoeal diseases. Section 77 of the Constitution states that, "every person has a right to safe, clean and potable water 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".

Water supply must be safe, sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses. The city council should partner financial associations to help them offer reliable services. In Benin, commercial banks have committed to support the water sector by providing loans, and various financing instruments to private operators in small towns to build new water connections.

This is completely different from what is happening here, as council fails to consider the need for people to have safe and clean water. It is difficult to compare the quality or lack thereof of Zimbabwe's waterways, due to lack of a consistent water supply in most parts of the city.

Supporting household water treatment, and protected storage initiatives can improve the quality of drinking water and reduce the spread of water-borne diseases.

The government of Burundi, for example, adopted a National Water Policy in 2009, and the successive National Water Strategy, together with an action plan, in 2012. The country, thus, has an official reference and planning tool for developing the water sector. Sector ministries use this reference document to plan their expenditure and budget as well as mobilise financing.

City of Harare, therefore, should ensure that all residential areas in the city constantly receive safe and clean water, to avoid waterborne diseases.

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