Fighting for Water – A 2021 MIHR Survey on Conflict and Violence at Bulawayo’s Alternative Water Points

Executive Summary

Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by the year 2030 as envisioned by Sustainable Development Goal 6(SDG6) requires a holistic approach to eliminating all water access barriers that include distance, cost, infrastructure design and water related violence.

Water related conflicts and violence have been on the increase since 1900 and it is projected that due to acute water crisis to be faced by 2030, the world may begin experiencing inter-state and intra-state wars being fought over water. In Zimbabwe, fresh water scarcity is worsening due to population growth, worsening climate change effects, increasing water demand by commercial activities and poor water management strategies. This water scarcity is resulting in localized conflicts and violence over water resources both in rural and urban areas.

Nationally, as of the year 2020, an average of 7.4% rural households experienced violence at water points. Mashonaland Central (11.2%) had the highest prevalence of violence at water sources and Matabeleland South had the least (4.8%). Violence at water points was more prone in those areas where people spent more time queuing for water.This survey which targeted Bulawayo women and girls’ opinions on conflicts and violence at alternative water points in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe’s second largest city located in the dry region of Matabeleland) shows that water conflicts and violence is also a feature in urban communities during water shedding times.

According to the survey results most females are facing conflicts/violence at alternative water points with 73% having experienced insults, 66% pushing/shoving, 23% fights and 15% threats. The major perpetrators of conflict/violence being youths (young males 92% and young females 56%. The people who were the major victims were children (98%), young females (43%) and adult females (36%). It is therefore critical for stakeholders in Bulawayo in particular and Zimbabwe in general to formulate gender inclusive strategies of ensuring access to clean and safe potable water by all. These strategies should be informed by consultations of women and girls since in Zimbabwe they are the major collectors of water for domestic purposes. Having gender inclusive access to water strategies during water stress times will therefore eliminate all forms of gender based violence at urban alternative water points such as boreholes, wells, water kiosks and water bowser queues.

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Source: Matabeleland Institute of Human Rights