Over 6.5 million people are affected by the current WASH challenges in Zimbabwe, with over 3.6 million people in need of urgent assistance, according to the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan. Under the HRP, more than 2.7 million people will be targeted across rural (77 per cent) and urban (23 per cent) areas, while the HRP COVID-19 Addendum targets an additional 2.8 million people.
Access to safe water in rural areas remains a challenge with only 30 per cent of the 55,709 water sources tracked by the Rural Water Information Management System (RWIMS), providing water from a protected source.
Urban centres continue to face critical water treatment chemical shortages further hampered by low revenue collection as a result of the COVID-19 related lockdown. Water quality testing consumables and spare parts are also in short supply and need to be replenished, while water rationing impacts people’s ability to maintain good hygiene practices.
Current average dam water storage levels are 49.4 per cent compared with the expected average levels of 70.5 per cent for the month of June, while Harare is 15.3 per cent against an expected average of 77.4 per cent. These shortages also affect hydropower generation, which in turn affects urban water supply and treatment.
Despite no reported cases of cholera, there is an ongoing typhoid outbreak with 642 cases and two deaths recorded in high-density suburbs of Harare. An outbreak of diarrhoeal disease is currently ongoing in Bulawayo, with over 1,700 recorded cases and nine deaths. Many more cases have been observed however, but people lack money to pay for health services.
According to recent assessments of quarantine centres, only 62 per cent of centres have running water, while only 40 per cent of handwashing stations had soap. 57 per cent of centres were not following routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and PPEs are lacking. Urgent attention is required to identify specific WASH related IPC needs in quarantine centres.
Parirenyatwa, Chitungiwza and Harare Hospital currently have no incinerators and the accumulation of medical waste poses a serious health hazard to staff and patients of these facilities.
Through the HRP, partners have reached 169,705 people with access to safe water and 1,312,259 have received sanitation and hygiene messages. 53,348 people have received hygiene items including 6,439 women and girls who received MHM kits. 1,859 people have also been reached with access to appropriate sanitation and 824 handwashing stations have been constructed for 37,310 people.
Through the HRP COVID-19 response, partners have reached 50,881 people with access to safe water, while 299,900 have received sanitation and hygiene messages and 310 people have been assisted with hygiene items. 178 handwashing stations have been constructed for 14,964 people. It should be noted that all WASH activities contribute to the prevention of COVID-19 but have HRP partners have in addition been able to provide 49 health care facilities with PPE kits.
Outside of the HRP, the Government and partners have drilled 114 boreholes in nine provinces (7 in Mash. Central, 12 in Mat. South, 26 in Masvingo, 15 in Mash East, 3 in Mash. West, 6 in Manicaland, 5 in Mat. North, 29 in Harare and 11 in Bulawayo); and rehabilitated 1,709 boreholes in ten provinces (109 in Mash. Central, 247 in Midlands, 239 in Mat. South, 375 in Masvingo, 92 in Mash. East, 440 in Mash. West, 72 in Manicaland, 110 in Mat. North, 1 in Harare and 24 in Bulawayo); and rehabilitated 21 piped water systems; 2 in Mat. North, 10 in Mat. South, 3 in Masvingo, 1 in Mash E, 2 in Manicaland, and 2 in Bulawayo and 1 in Harare. Water trucking is ongoing with nearly2.6 million litres trucked into four provinces of Mash. Central (13,000), Mat. South (105,000), Mat. North (45,000), Manicaland (676,000), Harare (730,015) and Bulawayo (1,022,000).
A total of 9,455 handwashing stations have been set up in Mash. Central (1,181), Masvingo (48) Mash. East (3,468), Masvingo (48), Manicaland (157), and Mat. North (4,553) to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in markets, public spaces, in communities and at boreholes.
With schools set to reopen next month, new quarantine centres are being identified and WASH partners are assessing their needs.
Only 3 per cent of the funding for the WASH cluster’s HRP and 8 per cent of the COVID-19 requirements have been secured, leaving significant gaps across all areas of the WASH response.
Although 1.6 million people have been reached through the HRP, this is predominately through mass media hygiene campaigns, with activities clustered around 23 out of the 86 Districts targeted. This means 80 per cent of districts have not received essential messaging for COVID-19 and other key public health risks.
In terms of access to safe drinking water only HRP partners have only been able to provide safe access to water in 7 of the 35 targeted Districts and for hygiene kits under the HRP and COVID-19 response, just 7 out of 68 Districts.
Water shortages are becoming more apparent as drought and the lack of funding hampers the sector’s ability to rehabilitate existing sources and construct new ones. Lack of funds is also affecting the sector’s ability to operate and maintain existing sources of water leading to an observable deterioration in the quality and quantity of water supplies, particularly in urban areas.
Water supply in the quarantine centres similarly is a major challenge with many centres identiﬁed as requiring support to ensure water is available for use by the returnees. There is also sharing of handwashing and bathing facilities among the returnees.
Coordination among the different pillars and sectors to identify and address the priority WASH needs in new quarantine centres needs to be improved. The escalating number of confirmed COVID-19, illustrates the need for strong coordinated and well-funded responses if the disease is to be contained.
Similarly, isolation centres are not yet ready to receive to COVID-19 patients lacking the necessary environmental sanitation materials and PPE items to ensure IPC measures are adhered to.
There is also a need for clearer standards and clarification on areas of responsibility between Health, WASH and Education in regard to IPC measures in HCFs and Schools.
Female returnees in quarantine centres do not have access to menstrual hygiene management materials during their stay in the quarantine centres.
Waste management in quarantine centres is a challenge due to a lack of proper vehicles and adequate disposal processes.