The state-funded sanitation programme collapsed after a decade
Zimbabwe’s experience of water and sanitation sector development is that of a model of African sector development, collapsing within a decade. This reflects the vulnerability of service development built on state subsidies sector and donor finance, without sufficient focus on sustainability.
Encouragingly, a relatively swift recovery may well be possible, given a favourable political environment, a large injection of finance, and prioritization of the sector. A second generation of reforms is now needed. They encompass: leadership, role allocation, capacity building and improving sector governance and stakeholder consultation; shifting government’s role from that of implementer to facilitator; filling key policy gaps and amending policies to improve sustainability; assisting service providers to become financially viable; improving donor-government alignment; and putting in place sector monitoring and annual review processes will also be helpful.
Water supply and sanitation in Zimbabwe are defined not only by many small scale successful programs but also by a general lack of improved water and sanitation systems for the majority of Zimbabwe. According to the World Health Organization in 2012, 80% of Zimbabweans had access to improved, i.e. clean, drinking-water sources, and only 40% of Zimbabweans had access to improved sanitation facilities. Access to improved water supply and sanitation is distinctly less in rural areas. There are many factors which continue to determine the nature, for the foreseeable future, of water supply and sanitation in Zimbabwe. Three major factors are the severely depressed state of the Zimbabwean economy, the willingness of foreign aid organizations to build and finance infrastructure projects, and the political stability of the Zimbabwean state.
History and Access To Sanitation
In the 20 years from Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980, overall water coverage increased from 32 percent to 56 percent and overall sanitation access up from 28 percent to 55 percent. Urban services had achieved well over 90 percent coverage by the late 1990s. Since then there has been a decline, the exact extent of which is not known. The CSO2 compares countries’ own estimates of coverage with data from the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP).
The impact of these different coverage estimates on investment requirements is also assessed. There are two different sets of targets for the sector. The lower, Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets are for 89 percent water coverage and 72 percent sanitation coverage; the government’s own, more ambitious targets aim for 100 percent coverage by 2015 in all subsectors, except rural sanitation (80 percent). Estimates of coverage also vary considerably. The WHO/UNICEF JMP figures suggest that, in 2008, 82 percent of Zimbabweans had access to improved drinking water and 68 percent to an improved toilet. Government figures for 2008 estimate coverage in the range of 46 percent access to improved drinking water and 30 percent access to improved sanitation facilities.
At Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe inherited a well developed urban sector and a neglected rural sector. The detailed JMP sub-sectoral figures show limited progress in drinking water supply over the whole period and a decline in piped supply access (see sections 6 and 9). Despite significant efforts to develop rural infrastructure, the imbalance between urban and rural services remains a distinctive feature of the sector in Zimbabwe today:6 98 percent of those without an improved drinking water source live in rural areas and up to 42 percent of the rural population practices open defecation. Hidden behind the coverage statistics, there has also been a significant decline in the quality of urban and rural services (poorer water quality, intermittent supplies, and longer walking distances). Sanitation coverage has stagnated since 1990, with only a slow reduction in open defecation. Without a recovery in the water and sanitation sector, Zimbabweans will face further cholera outbreaks, more deaths, illnesses, continuing poverty, and negative impacts on livelihoods, industry, tourism, food production and agriculture, pollution of rivers and water courses: this essentially translates to more hardship, particularly for women and children
‘Flush Mob In Zimbabwe’
Many residents of Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo have simultaneously flushed their toilets, as part of an official attempt to prevent blocked sewage pipes.
A severe drought and years of poor maintenance have meant Bulawayo residents often go without running water for three days at a time.
The synchronised flush takes place at the same time twice a week - on Mondays and Thursdays - though residents will of course be able to flush their toilets at other times too.
While many households in Zimbabwe have flush toilets, due to a lack of water, many people have been using buckets of water instead.
The Blair Toilet (a.k.a. Blair Latrine) is a pit toilet designed in the 1970s. It was a result of large-scale projects to improve rural sanitation in Rhodesia under UDI at the Blair Research Institute, and then deployed further during the 1980s after Zimbabwean Independence. There was mass deployment of the toilet design in the rural areas of the country. It was developed by Dr. Peter Morgan of Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe).
Its design makes use of air currents, a septic tank like pit, over which is built an upper structure with an open light-trap entrance and ventilation pipe from the bottom pit with a fine wire grate to keep out flies but more importantly, to keep those entering the toilet hole from flying out towards the light. The result is hygienic, as flies cannot escape from the faecal matter to spread disease, and the gases produced by the decomposing waste are redirected outside.
Perhaps the best known technology used in the programme is the Blair Latrine. This was first designed, in 1973 at the Blair Institute and placed on trial for two years before it was used more widely by the Ministry of Health. Recently published records show that about half a million Blair Latrines have been built in Zimbabwe since it was first designed.
Since 1980, over 400 000 Blair Latrines have been built at household level with a further 25, 000 at schools for staff. In addition, 8,000 multi-compartment Blair Latrines have been built at schools with the number on commercial farms and estates estimated at well above 50 000.
The Blair VIP (BVIP) toilet is a Zimbabwean invention and the forerunner of all VIP toilets. It has been a standardised piece of sanitary hardware recommended by the Government of Zimbabwe for 30+ years.
The family unit is multi-purpose and doubles as a washroom. A multi-compartment version is recommended for schools
The Modern Blair Latrine
In 2010 the Government of Zimbabwe relaxed its technical policy guideline for family toilets (the spiral brick Blair VIP) to include an additional design called an Upgradeable BVIP (uBVIP). In this version the basic requirement is for a brick lined pit and a covering concrete slab, which allows the owner to upgrade in a sequence of steps to attain the final brick built Blair VIP. The starting point is a brick lined pit of suitable capacity capped by a slab which has both squat and vent holes. The government specifies that the range of vent pipe options should include those made of bricks as well as tubes (eg PVC or asbestos). It is a requirement that the minimum life of the pit be at least 10 years. However recent developments in manufacture have significantly reduced the cost of PVC pipes. It is already well established that tubular vents are more efficient than brick pipes, and therefore there is a place for them in modern BVIP technology. There are certain other advantages in using tubular pipes. The configuration of the concrete slab can be modified to reduce the number of bricks used and also increase ease of construction. A manual has already been written on the uBVIP designed for use with a brick (or tubular) pipe. This manual describes the construction of a BVIP designed specifically for the tubular 110mm pipe.
Open Defecation In Zimbabwe
”Improved sanitation facilities are when facilities hygienically separate human faeces from human contact. These could be achieved through many ways including flush or pour flush to piped sewer system; flush or Pour-flush to septic tank; flush or pour flush to pit latrine; Blair Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine (BVIP); upgradeable ventilated improved pit latrines; to compositing toilet or urine diversion dry toilet (UDDT) and urinals for institutions and schools. Of the 12 416 households that were sampled, forty-two percent (42.2%) of the households reported having no access to standard sanitation facilities, and presumably practiced open defecation (OD). As is to be expected, the proportion of households without standard sanitation facilities was higher in the poorest two quintiles (19.8%) than in the wealthiest two quintiles (12.5%). Therefore wealthier households were more likely to have constructed a latrine on their own without subsidies than poorer households who rely heavily on state subsidies to construct latrines. Of the 30.1% households that reported having constructed a sanitation facility on their own without subsidies, 18.5% were in the upper two quintiles while only 6% were in the lower two quintiles.
It is interesting to note that even in the wealthiest households in these villages; some people are without standard sanitation facilities.
© 2016 Sulabh Swachh Bharat. All Right Reserved