Access to clean and safe water remains a critical problem for people living in rural areas with women and children the most affected, UNICEF has revealed.
Speaking at the handover of a £12 million contribution towards the Rural WASH Program, recently in Mashonaland Central, UNICEF Deputy Representative Dr Jane Muita said access to safe water and adequate sanitation is a critical realization of fundamental human rights such as the right to life and dignity as well as the right to health and well-being.
She said lack of water, sanitation and hygiene remains a major concern to UNICEF as it has a great bearing on the health and well-being of women and children especially in the rural area.
“A stronger imbalance exists in rural areas where women and girls do the great majority of manual and management work for water and sanitation services at the household level. They travel great distances to wells and boreholes, wait in long queues for their turn to collect water and they lug heavy buckets several miles back to their villages.
“These activities can deprive women of time to engage in economic activities to enhance their livelihoods and compromise the girl child’s ability to reach her full potential,” said Dr Muita.
She further stated that inadequate or lack of appropriate water and sanitation facilities in schools also have a negative impact on the girl child’s ability to access education as many girls miss days at school every month due to lack of privacy and dignity.
“Many girls get low results due to this and their pass rate is reduced. Similarly, inaccessible water and sanitation facilities are major contributing factors for school dropouts among children living with disabilities whose needs are so often overlooked,” she said.
The first phase of the Rural WASH program saw the installation of 1620 boreholes, with 1600 schools now having gender sensitive sanitation facilities as well as 2500 villages being declared Open Defecation Free areas.
The second phase of the program will further strengthen the thematic areas of rehabilitation and construction of WASH infrastructure; demand led sanitation and hygiene promotion as well as public and private partnership for operation and maintenance through greater involvement by stakeholders.
The extension will also provide improved access to water and sanitation to a further 1,4 million people in 11 districts , improving the lives of some of the poorest people in the country thereby mitigating the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid which are catastrophic.
In his acceptance speech, National Action Committee Chairperson, Prince Mupazviriho said the £12 million grant will target 12 water stressed districts of Mudzi, Mutoko, Buhera, Makoni, Rushinga, Mt Darwin, Mbire and Muzarabani.
He added that the program is in line with the ZimAsset economic blueprint with one of its major thrusts being to ensure a growing economy and empowered communities.
“The grant will greatly assist us as we thrive to achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) targets that require us to ensure safe water and dignified sanitation for all,” said Mupazviriho.
According to UNICEF, at least 32% of people in rural Zimbabwe do not have access to improved sources of water with the majority being woman and children under 5 years.