Creating Covid-19 Safe Water Points

Our country Zimbabwe now has 17 confirmed COVID 19 cases. Of the 11, there are 3 deaths. Government has not done much on testing citizens on COVID 19. We have had only around 400 citizens tested out of a population of around 14 million.

As non-state actors we have taken the initiative to help by providing civic education on COVID 19 prevention protocols.

Context in Zimbabwe

The majority of Zimbabwe’s Urban Local Authorities are struggling to ensure 24/7 supply of quality/potable water to individual properties. Citizens have therefore resorted to communal water points like boreholes as main sources of water. There are however queues and crowding at boreholes which has the potential of turning water points into hot spots for the spread of COVID-19 if not carefully managed. In some instances the water facilities need re-designing and improvement to allow social distancing and for disinfection measures to be effective. The collection of water is mainly the responsibility of women and children who become vulnerable to contracting the virus. As women are confined to household chores of fetching water, they are placed at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 at these urban water access points.

What We Are Doing

In the context of the current COVID19 pandemic the Community Water Alliance (CWA) launched a campaign to make water points safe. The campaign is code-named the #CreatingCOVID19SafeWaterPoints. The project will prepare women and CWA ward structures to prevent COVID-19, a global pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives. Further, CWA seeks to promote effective hygiene at water points based on mobilized women in Glen View, Budiriro, Hopley and Mbare. Their actions to be supported under this action will strengthen the community-level fight against the spread of Coronavirus in the targeted areas. Budiriro, Glen View and Mbare are cholera hot spots in Zimbabwe and have had perennial water and sanitation challenges. Glen View, which is the epicentre of the cholera outbreak, is an active informal trading area where people come from across the city and the rest of the country to trade. It is near the City of Harare’s main sewer treatment plant, Firle. Women queue at boreholes in Glen View, Mbare, Hopley and Budiriro because the City of Harare has not been able to provide adequate reticulated water supplies to these areas. Most of Hopley has no municipal water supply infrastructure and does not receive supplies at present. This is against the reality that the City of Harare is producing 190 megalitres per day against a daily demand of 1200 megalitres.

The campaign is driven by CWA‘s ward structures and water point committees which are chaired mainly by women. This campaign is informed by a window of opportunity that exists within the “Hand Washing Challenge” by the World Health Organization and “Avoiding Large Public Gatherings” measures emplaced by the Government of Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe has made its intentions very clear in leading the COVID-19 fight. In several press briefings, Government has pointed out the importance of hand washing, self-quarantining and avoiding public gatherings as preventative measures in keeping with global advice.

World Health Organization-inspired actions taken by government are welcome and fulfil the aspirations of citizens to prevent spread of COVID-19. However, there are some contextual realities that women face at community level that should be taken into account. Failure to adapt the COVID-19 prevention protocols on public water points is a critical one. The preventative solutions have so far ignored the fact that women cannot self-isolate because potable water is not accessed within their homes/properties in the majority of Zimbabwe‘s urban areas especially poor neighborhoods. Women are forced to fetch water at boreholes where there are queues. The pumping equipment is also manual which sees women touching handles of bush pumps without gloves or any sanitizers provided. CWA monitored the situation at water points in Glen View and Budiriro and witnessed large congregations around boreholes in search of water and women risking their lives to fulfill household chores. Further, most women at boreholes lack access to critical information on COVID-19. The few information kits provided are not friendly to persons with disabilities.

In response to above challenges, Community Water Alliance embarked on #COVID19FreeWaterPoints project to enhance public water points infrastructure and citizen adaptation to COVID-19 prevention protocols. The project will provide water point committees with protective clothing like gloves, aprons, face masks and to ensure that sanitizers as well as detergents for hand washing are available at water points. The organization will target high density areas as well as some informal settlements in the Harare region. This will protect women, children and other citizens visiting public water points against COVID-19. Further, CWA will also work with Council to redesign the facilities (e.g. abstraction points that do not allow social distancing) and pave the surfaces to enable effective disinfecting of the immediate environments around water points.

We are appealing for help by donating sanitizers, detergents, liquid soap and buckets to ensure public water points are safe.

Source: Community Water Alliance