HARARE - Primary school pupils in Matabeleland South have appealed to United Nations agency Unicef to assist them in accessing water and sanitation which are all fundamental human rights provided for in the Constitution.
Thirteen-year-old Noleen Mlalazi, from ward 17 Manama, pleaded with Unicef officials to build toilets during the roll-out of the three year Apostolic Strategic document — which seeks to improve water and sanitation among other bad practices inherent in “mapostori” churches.
“I stay with my grandmother and she is old. Please Unicef build us a toilet so we can have a decent space to relieve ourselves,” said Noleen.
“We need water close to our homes. We are always affected by diarrhoea. We do not have a borehole at our school. We travel long distances to fetch water,” said Alita Mlilo and Obedience Mathonsi from Bengo Primary School.
Section 77 of the country’s Constitution clearly states that every person has the right to safe, clean and potable water, while section 51 seeks to protect the right to human dignity.
However, the government has, for years, not been able to guarantee these rights citing resource constraints. Four thousand people died of cholera in 2008 and hundreds continue to succumb to waterborne diseases every year.
Union for the Development of Churches in Zimbabwe (Udaciza) provincial chairperson, Matilda Masia, said the problem was widespread threatening the existence of all age groups and livestock.
“Mat South is generally a dry area. At least we are grateful this season because there was normal to above normal rainfall since 1967,” she said.
Masia added that, “We need to save these children from having to walk long distances to fetch water for their teachers and their parents. It is also not safe for them to be hiding behind bushes. The Madida Headquarters also needs water”.
Madida is an extremely conservative apostolic church which is dominant in the province.
Following years of government neglect, the donor community has largely adopted most of the State obligations by providing for the realisation of these rights — leading the rural population to think water and sanitation rights can only be expected from well-wishers.
Bengo Primary School deputy head Rossly Tshuma said, “Some travel for two kilometres for water and there is a critical shortage of toilets in this part. It is not healthy and it disturbs their study time”.
According to Unicef, more than 60 percent of the rural water supply infrastructure is in disrepair and 40 percent of Zimbabweans in rural areas practice open defecation.
The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency estimates that 72 percent of Zimbabwe’s population lives in rural areas.
Through a $52 million Rural Water and Sanitation Hygiene programme supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), some communities now already enjoy their rights in Zimbabwe.