SHURUGWI: Anesu is playing with her friends outside the compound, she decides to rush to the toilet, and as she steps in her bare feet land in a pool of dirty water, but she is too young to care.
She makes sure no one can see her from outside and she squats just behind the door.
Anesu is only five years old and her mother told her not to go to further in when she visits the toilet because it is filled with decomposing human waste.
Anesu does not know anything about the health hazards they are facing in Maglas, Zvishavane.
Hundreds of children like her in mining towns like Shurugwi are also exposed to risks of waterborne diseases every day.
Mining is one of the backbones of Zimbabwe’s economy and with it comes better jobs and improved living standards.
Amid risks of contracting COVID-19 in long queues awaiting water from community taps, overcrowded ablution facilities have also left them exposed to other diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Residents in compounds once owned by former mining giants as Shabani Mashava Mine in Zvishavane and ZIMASCO in Shurugwi are enduring up to 30 days without running water leading to deplorable living conditions mainly affecting women.
In these densely populated suburbs, 15 to 20 families share one bathroom and toiler which does not have a 24-hour water supply.
CommuTalk caught up with Gogo Ngwenya who shared her ordeal.
“We do not get water regularly and when we do, young women crowd the water taps and sometimes old women like us will not be able to access water when it is available. Pertaining ablution facilities, if you get in you will see for yourself that the bathrooms are not clean.
“People now prefer open defecation. We are five in my household but some families have more than five members so you can imagine how overwhelmed the bathrooms will be,” said the 71-year-old lady.
From Ironsides in Shurugwi, Priscilla Mashona shared similar challenges that emerged when ZIMASCO closed business.
“We use communal toilets and water supply is not even consistent. When supply resume, it usually after at least a month but only runs from 0500hrs to 0800hra giving us only three hours to access the precious liquid for the period in question.
“Our homes are even crumbling down as they know no renovations. Security is also a matter of concern as there are no locks on the bathrooms. We fear our daughters may get raped,” she said.
Section 77 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution however states that “every person has a right to safe, clean and potable water and the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.”
As mining operations folded in theses communities, service delivery was handed over and now directly being administered by municipal offices.
Zvishavane Town Mayor, Khulekhani Ndlovu blamed poor service delivery to the recent heavy downpours.
“It is unfortunate that heavy downpours have affected our water works. This has also been worsened by power cuts as we cannot supply water without electricity. Besides that, water should be supplied normally,” Ndlovu said.
Shurugwi Town Council chairperson, Walter Gwinji however said old infrastructure had resulted in water shortages though he gave word that all is in place to curb the challenge.
“Our challenge is old infrastructure. We have a lot of water but we need to replace some pipes and also, some water meters are very old thereby blocking water from exiting taps.
“We have however purchased the missing pipes and asked residents with old meters to have them replaced. Very soon water provision will be improved,” Gwinji said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) stipulates that ideally every person should access between 50 and 100 liters of water per day to ensure the most basic needs are met and the outbreak of disease is prevented.
With the serious shortages of this precious and life- saving liquid many citizens in Zimbabwe fall far short of this standard as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that between 2018 and 2019, cholera claimed 69 lives while 10, 730 got infected.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 further urges duty bearers to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.