THE Zimbabwean government should mobilise more resources in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs as well as increase emergency preparedness to waterborne outbreaks to fulfil Sustainable Development Goal 6, a UNICEF official recommends.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Speaking at a public discussion on WASH in Zimbabwe, UNICEF Head of WASH Mr Aidan Cronin bemoaned the chronic water shortages in the country.
When water is not available, it’s affecting hygiene and sanitation. We know that open defecation in urban areas has increased because people don’t have the water to flush the toilets at the moment. This is a public health issue for everyone. Then we need to look at the possibility of cholera and typhoid. The first step is we up our preparedness levels, our emergency response so that is a message for local authorities and other ministries,” he said.
He added that government should mobilise more resources towards WASH activities.
“The other message could be around the financing. The three main sources we have for financing the wash sector are taxes which come from the national budget, tariffs to local authorities, and lastly being transfers from donors, bilateral programs and so forth.
“All of these need to increase. We heard in the meeting this meeting that Zimbabwe is one of the most underfunded WASH sectors in the region. But this is something not for external partners only but also the government of Zimbabwe putting increased priority and matching that with funding onto the WASH sector,” Cronin said.
Health Ministry Environmental Health director Victor Nyamandi said resource mobilisation on issues like drugs and education is of paramount importance.
“The community has to know that they should boil their water if they don’t have tablets to use to treat the water. But in the event there is an outbreak, we have partners that have prepositioned resources that they quickly move in.
“Besides prepositioning resources, we have trained our staff members or health teams in what we call integrated disease response and surveillance where they will go and treat and educate communities to reduce the effects any outbreak might cause,” he explained.
He added that Government is not prescribing that people should use boreholes.
“Government’s stance is that we should use water from example Morton Jaffray. But at the same time we also monitor it for safety as the Ministry of Health And Child Care,” Nyamandi said.
University of Zimbabwe Deputy dean in the faculty of arts Professor Nisbert Taringa said ethics on WASH should be fostered as early as early childhood.
Dr Ernest Dube from Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University said water preservation is the way to go to achieve SDG 6.
More than half of the world’s population do not have access to safely managed sanitation, the United Nations revealed to mark World Toilet Day.
Of those, three billion lack basic handwashing facilities and 673 million still practise open defecation, the UN said
Lack of access to hygienic toilet facilities can have deadly consequences as inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrheal deaths every year — of whom nearly 300,000 are children under the age of five.
Other diseases linked to the sanitation crisis include cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio which are spread through water contaminated by human waste.
According to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation, at least two billion people use drinking water contaminated with faeces. The body also estimates that by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.