WOMEN and girls in Zimbabwe are carrying the burden imposed by local and central government’s failure to provide uninterrupted clean and safe water to the majority of the capital’s residents, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The findings are contained in a report by HRW titled Troubled Water: Burst Pipes, Contaminated Wells and Open Defecation in Zimbabwe’s Capital, launched on Tuesday. The research was carried out in eight high-density suburbs in Harare between October 2012 and September 2013.
According to the report, children, especially girls, were disproportionally affected by lack of access to water as girls are often responsible for fetching the precious liquid from boreholes or unprotected wells.
“Girls who are menstruating face numerous challenges in attending school, including lack of appropriate disposal of sanitary pads, severe overcrowding with insufficient toilets, inadequate water supply and little provision for hand washing,” the report says.
HRW senior researcher Dewa Mavhinga said government should immediately adopt new policies to solve the water shortages without sacrificing the urban poor.
“The Ministry of Water, Environment and Climate should work with local urban councils to develop and implement a system, such as sliding fees, that would ensure the delivery of affordable and safe piped water to low-income families,” Mavhinga said.
The Combined Harare Residents Association and Harare Residents Trust said the local authority should ringfence revenue from the water account and only use it to rehabilitate the system and procure water treatment chemicals.
Government recently got a US$144 million loan from China to rehabilitate water works in the capital. The money is expected to be used to refurbish Firle and Jeffray Morton Waterworks.
More than 4 000 people died of cholera and typhoid in Harare and Chitungwiza between 2008 and 2009.
The epidemic was only contained after international aid agencies came to the rescue with support to purchase water treatment chemicals and the drilling of boreholes in high-density suburbs.