Rural WASH programme gives villagers new lease of life

0
1599

BEITBRIDGE – The unforgiving sun that appears to mock any longing for lush, green vegetation in Gukunze village does not hint that it will relent any time soon.

BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI

But poor rainfall patterns that characterise this border outpost in Matabeleland South populated by the Venda people has made access to potable water a challenge.

Both humans and livestock in Pasani, Kone and Mgwalisani villages are in desperate need of watering and their problem is exacerbated by boreholes in the areas which have long broken down.

Their fortunes, however, are set to shift following the intervention of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) through its rural Water and Sanitation (WASH) programme.

Under the programme, Unicef is rehabilitating broken down boreholes.

This has left villagers in celebratory mood, with village head Pasani Nyoni saying the rehabilitation of the borehole in his area, which serviced a total of 149 households, has given villagers hope after several years of scrounging for the precious liquid.

“People used to walk long distances to find water after the borehole in this village broke down in 2009,” he said.
“We are, however, happy now that the borehole has been rehabilitated.”

Villagers who spoke to NewsDay said the rehabilitation of the boreholes had given them a new lease of life since they now had access to the precious liquid and were now able to do their gardening to boost food security.

“We have been able to develop small gardens where we are largely producing vegetables and tomatoes for household consumption,” Enita Mudau said.

Another villager, Victor Moyo, said although there were several boreholes in the village, only one was now functional after it was rehabilitated.

“All the other boreholes in the areas are yet to be rehabilitated,” he said.

Several villagers have constructed Blair toilets to curb open defecation as part of the rural WASH programme.

Although 73% of the population has access to safe water and 60% to improved sanitation facilities, more than 60% of the rural water supply infrastructure is in disrepair and 40% of Zimbabweans in rural areas practice open defecation, according to Unicef statistics.

Under WASH, Unicef manages a $30 million programme to improve access to safe water and sanitation for 500 000 inhabitants in 14 small towns in Zimbabwe, among other things.

The improved sanitation is expected to cut down the rate of diarrhoeal diseases in the area with places like Zebra village in Beitbridge West now enjoying the use of toilets.

This has curbed the once widespread problem of open defecation in the area.

Villagers have established a sanitation action group (SAG) of seven members which has not only been preaching, but practicing good hygiene and sanitation.

This has seen 50 households in the village constructing toilets.

SAG member Tilivhali Moyo said she was running with the vision of ensuring that every community member had a toilet by year end.

“Our dream is to ensure that every household has a proper toilet. Open defecation poses a lot of health challenges and we want to see everyone in this village moving away from that,” she said.

The District Development Fund and other partners like Unicef have given financial aid to assist the community. It cost up to $200 to construct a proper toilet. Outside each toilet is a hand-washing point. Here, water is stored in a container tied onto a tree using a long rope. The rope is attached to a brick.

Beitbridge district WASH co-ordinator Tinashe Ngundu said they had a target of constructing 267 toilets for vulnerable people, including child-headed families and the disabled.

Ngundu said they hoped to build 24 more latrines at various schools in the district.

“As of last year, we built 16 latrines at schools and we recently got an allocation for a further 24. The programme is aimed at rehabilitating school latrines. So far we have rehabilitated seven,” he said.

Ngundu said they were targeting selected households with the elderly, disabled and those headed by orphans
.
He, however, said there was need for co-ordinated efforts by various stakeholders to ensure the programme’s success.

“We have seen that there have been fragmented efforts from partners in the past and we still have yawning gaps,” he said.
Ngundu said between 50% and 55% of the water points in the region were dysfunctional and described it as unfortunate in a district that sorely relied on borehole water.

The area is serviced by two major rivers, Bubi and Mzingwane, but they dry up soon after the rainy season.