'Zim's water budget too low'

HARARE - The Zimbabwean government has come under fire after allocating a paltry $16,4 million for water and sanitation programmes over the next financial year, a sum which environmental experts said is woefully inadequate given the size of the country and the health challenges it faces.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa proposed $16,4 million towards water and sanitation programmes, of which $10,4 million target both urban and rural local authorities, whilst $6 million caters for Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and the District Development Fund.

The commitment to water and sanitation by government therefore stands at 0,4 percent of the total budget.

Development partners were referenced as actors complementing government efforts and these include ZimFund Phase II, African Development Bank, World Bank and Unicef.

Experts expressed surprise and concern at the government’s announcement. Hildaberta Rwambiwa, Community Water Alliance national chairperson, which looks into the health impacts of water shortages, and also a principal investigator in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on access to water by all, said the funding was inadequate given the increasing costs associated with water shortage impacts.

“Challenges on potable water provision faced by local authorities in Zimbabwe cannot be addressed by this paltry allocation,” Rwambiwa said.

“The budget allocation on water presents serious challenges on the progressive realisation and the obligation to fulfil the human right to water. Water borne diseases are likely to worsen within local suburbs.”

This comes as Zimbabwe is scrambling to contain an outbreak of typhoid following at least two deaths and more than 150 suspected cases of the bacterial infection in Harare.

Rwambiwa said the policy orientation thrust on water in Zimbabwe is still anchored on UN Millennium Development Goals at the expense of the component of sustainability that defines Sustainable Development Goals — which seeks to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.

Community Water Alliance said government must use the human rights-based approach to development in the water sector.

Zimbabwe, one of the poorest country in southern Africa, is home to more than 13 million people, who either have to use boreholes to supplement water needs or buy bottled drinking water, with many forced to adapt their hygiene practices to the limited water supply amid damage to sanitation systems that has polluted areas or water supplies with human waste, exposing the population — especially the poor and vulnerable — to increased risk of disease, experts say.

Sam Murowa, director of a water advocacy group, said he also believed the sum allocated for water was too little.

“The amount required is much bigger,” he said, though he noted that there are no credible estimates of how much actually would be required to adequately deal with the water crisis.

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