Access to adequate clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe continues to be an issue, especially for those living in rural areas. While many organizations have been working together to improve these issues, inadequate access threatens to worsen the spread of COVID-19. In order to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe has increased funding for “resilience-building” in the country.
Clean Water and Sanitation in Zimbabwe
UNICEF reported that only about 35% of Zimbabwe’s population has access to adequate improved sanitation in Zimbabwe. This mainly impacts rural areas. In addition, CARE reported that 67% of people living in rural Zimbabwe don’t have access to safe drinking water. Inadequate access to sanitation and clean drinking water has a great impact on low and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 827,000 people in those countries die every year from a lack of access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
In 2015, the U.N. released a report by WaterAid on the impacts of improved water, sanitation and hygiene on poverty. Additionally, the report stated that improving access to clean water and sanitation could help increase incomes for people living in poverty. It could also decrease the strain on healthcare systems and the impacts of malnutrition and disease, which would improve health outcomes for the poorest people.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH Program)
Many organizations, including UNICEF, have been working to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene through the WASH program. The program provides education and builde things like handwashing stations. In addition, the WASH program provides people with access to clean water. Since June 18, 2020, the program has helped 1,859 people in Zimbabwe access adequate sanitation. Also, it helped 3,781 people gain access to clean water. Moreover, a total of 2.1 million people in Zimbabwe has been reached by the program so far.
Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic
In a press release on June 4, 2020, Sweden’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Åsa Pehrson said that COVID-19 has increased the need for access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. This need is not specific to rural areas. Additionally, Human Rights Watch reported that people living in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, and the surrounding metropolitan area are struggling to access adequate sanitation services and clean drinking water. More than 2 million people are in need of access. People who have to wait in long lines to access wells with clean water.
“Resilience Building” in Zimbabwe
In June 2020, The Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe announced that it is putting 15 million Swedish Kroner ($1.6 million) towards helping those in need of access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. The embassy is increasing an already existing investment in “resilience-building” for Zimbabweans. In addition, the Swedish Embassy plans to put the money toward strengthening water, sanitation and hygiene activities. These activities are implemented under the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund. Furthermore, the program will focus on water sources that already exist and aims to rehabilitate them. One part of the investment focuses on clean water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Another part will be dedicated to agriculture and livestock water sources in order to protect the food supply.
Zimbabweans continue to struggle to gain access to clean water and adequate sanitation, especially those living in rural areas. The WASH program has helped improve these conditions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to endanger those who still lack safe drinking water and sanitation. People living in big cities without access may be at risk while waiting in lines for wells with clean water. To help alleviate these problems, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe is increasing an existing investment in the country. They are putting money toward both improving access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, as well as protecting water sources for livestock and agriculture.
– Melody Kazel