Boasting one of the most beautiful climates in the world, as well as
stunning scenery and local landmarks, Zimbabwe is rich in natural
resources though still caught in the grasp of great poverty. Though the
period directly following independence was marked by gains in access to
health care, immunizations and water, those strides have been largely
undone by the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a faltering economy and
Indeed, Zimbabwe has seen the life expectancy for men and women go down
from 60 years in 1990 to approximately 43 today. The HIV infection rate
was 20 percent in 2005, and outbreaks of plague and cholera have had a
devastating impact on the local population.
Zimbabwe is made up of eight provinces and two cities that have
provincial status. After independence, a large deal of progress was made
in developing infrastructure to supply rural Zimbabweans with water and
sanitation. However, as the national economy has faltered, local
governments are increasingly unable to commit the funds necessary to
maintain that infrastructure and a great deal of it has fallen into
disrepair. It’s estimated that 51 percent of water points are either
non-functional or in a state of constant breakdown. With a semi-arid
climate and several years of poor rainfall, the Gokwe South District was
the second worst affected district in the Midlands province, with 13
percent of boreholes having become permanently non-functional.
This lack of access to clean water and sufficient sanitation profoundly
affects citizens of Gokwe South, contributing to high mortality rates of
children under five. Fifty-one percent of the population doesn’t have
access to sanitary waste disposal. Traditionally excreta are disposed of
in the bush, where they’re then at risk of running off into unprotected
water supplies. This contamination leads to transmission of many
water-borne diseases such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, malaria, amoebic
dysentery, bilharzia, and cholera. Children under five are most at
risk, as their still-developing immune systems are vulnerable to
In 2006, AWF moved to fund a comprehensive project that would provide
water and sanitation for 2,000 members of the Gokwe South District, 25
percent of whom were HIV/AIDS-affected households.
To adequately supply each household with water, water point availability
had to be increased by 48 percent. During meetings with the community,
participants revealed that some boreholes had been down for periods as
long as five years. Water points were being used by five times more
people than they were designed to accommodate.
AWF partner Africare oversaw the rehabilitation of 10 boreholes, 10
shallow wells and one deep well to meet this need. In addition, to
prevent the breakdowns that had previously plagued the area, water
committees were formed with the task of maintaining newly established or
repaired water points. In many cases, water points had been fitted so
long ago that adequate spare parts were difficult to locate. Where this
occurred old-style pumps were replaced with pumps that could be serviced
with parts obtained locally.
In addition to providing greater access to water, it was also necessary to construct additional sanitation facilities. Two local schools in the district were identified as most in need, with Mtanke School having a ratio of 95 children to each squat latrine, far beyond the recommended 20 per toilet. Ten ventilated pit latrines were constructed using local bricks and sand. In addition, hygiene education was provided to students. In return for the assistance, these schools each exempted 12 orphans from paying school fees for two years.