[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="560" caption="Washing clothes in a pot-hole"][/caption]
- Only one fifth of Zimbabwe's population has access to clean water
- A devastated sanitation system and poor water supply led to a terrible outbreak in cholera in Zimbabwe in 2008: since the outbreak, nearly 100,000 cases of cholera have been reported and over 4,000 people died from the deadly disease.
- 900 cases and 25 deaths have been recorded as a result of cholera in Zimbabwe in 2010.
- The United Nations says 50 percent of Zimbabwe’s rural population have no toilets and use the bush.
- More than 60% of the hand pumps used in rural areas to access water need repairs. This affects an estimated 2, 1 million Zimbabwean rural dwellers.
- Water is a gender issue with women bearing a great deal of the responsiblity for providing water for their familes:
- Women are forced to spend much of their productive time travelling to fetch and carry water.
- The need to collect water also affects girls enrolment in schools, with many staying at home to help fetch and carry water for the family.
- Poor sanitation at schools leads to an increase in drop-out rates due to a lack of sanitary facilities when girls reach puberty.
- Years of poor investement has led to critical equipment not being maintained or replaced when necessary. According to the spokesman for Zimbabwe's Environmental Management Agency, "Most local authorities' pump stations and biofilters are not functional and hence most of them have resorted to diverting raw sewerage straight into the natural water sources, causing a health time bomb." He said this in July 2010, less than two years after Zimbabwe's deadly cholera outbreak. "The way these authorities are managing the liquid waste is really pathetic," Kangata said. "Most of them are treating waste management as a peripheral issue which they only attend to it after all other things - including the payment of their hefty salaries - are done."
- As well as equipment failure, frequent and lengthy power cuts in major cities exacerbates problems because water pumps cannot operate properly.
- Children living in slums and in rural areas are among the most disadvantaged when it comes to being able to access clean water. Many children die silently of simple diarrhoeal diseases, but these don't make the news headlines in the same way cholera outbreaks do.
- The Minister of Water Resources and Development Samuel Sipepa Nkomo estimates that US$434 million is needed to resuscitate water infrastructure. The government has only US$100 million.
- A potential 2 235 200 ha of arable land is suitable of irrigation. Only 150 000ha is under irrigation; 50 000 ha is under sugar estates and the remaining 100 000 ha comprises of: A1 and A2 farming sectors, small holder and communal sectors, large private sectors and Arda estates.
- The National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, viewed as the solution to water scarcity in the city of Bulawayo, has apparently been discussed since the 1920s. The failure to move the project forward is viewed by many as a sign that the previous Zanu PF government prioritised investment in areas which benefitted its political support base. For many, devolution is now seen as one way to potentially address issues of under-development. The water project, and scarcity of water, terefore already functioning as a key driver for political reform and change in the Matabeleland regions.
It is Blog Action Day today, and the theme this year is 'Water'.