For three weeks Tavonga Kwidini and his wife Maria had no tap water in their home in Glen View, one of the many dry suburbs in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. The couple was just about at the end of their tether when heavy rains came like a gift from the heavens.
By Stanley Kwenda as published by IPS
“We now harvest rainwater and that’s what we use to bathe, drink and flush our toilets,” Kwidini told IPS as he lined up his buckets underneath the roof of his house in anticipation of the January showers.
Such has been his life since the second week of December 2012, which was the last time he had tap water. Surprisingly, he still receives the council water bill averaging around 80 dollars every month.
“Water problems are not new here — in 2008 some of my neighbours died of cholera because of these shortages but the [city] council is not doing anything to make sure that we have safe household water,” according to Kwidini.
UN assistance still needed
In the past the problem was largely blamed on shortages of water treatment chemicals, but for nearly half a decade this excuse has been inadequate, as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provided these chemicals to the country’s 20 urban councils free of charge.
UN assistance came in response to Zimbabwe’s 2008 cholera epidemic that killed about 4,000 people. It was not until last April, when local authorities indicated that the situation was under control, that UNICEF discontinued its support, according to UNICEF Chief Communications Officer Micaela Marques de Sousa.
However, experts and locals agree that the current status quo might force the aid agency to rethink its position, given that access to safe water is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose 2015 target is fast approaching.
Until the UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme withdrew in 2008 the situation had improved visibly, with greater numbers of people in Zimbabwe’s 20 urban centres able to access safe water and sanitation services.
Now it is common to see many people in urban Zimbabwe carrying buckets and walking in search of water, a sight that had hitherto been limited to rural areas.
“We have no option but to move from one area to the next in search of boreholes with clean water. These days we are lucky because of the rains, otherwise I would be carrying a 20-litre bucket to my work place to bring drinking water home,” said Kwidini, who works at a wholesale shop in central Harare.
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