Friday, October 28, 2016

Hopley Residents Dither Between Hope and Despair in Zimbabwe
Mai Kuku using a metal plate fill one of her 12 empty plastic buckets

Ruth Butaumocho: Gender Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

A twenty-three-year-old mother of four kneels towards an empty-man made hole to scoop water, coming from a patchy sand area known as “mufuku”.Using a metal plate, she patiently scoops water to fill one of her 12 empty plastic buckets. Known to her neighbours as Mai Kuku, she ignores incessant wailing from her two year old daughter to concentrate on the arduous process.Mai Kuku momentarily adjourns to change her kneeling position, before quickly resuming her task. With the growing queue of women patiently waiting for their turn to draw water from the same hole, she increases her speed. Sadly for her, the trickle does not correspond to her speed.

As mid day approaches, more women join the queue, whilst others pace up down the open space impatiently, while keeping an eye on less crowded holes, from where they can fetch water.

The seething high temperatures does not make life any better for the Hopley residents who now dither between hope and despair, owing to critical water shortages that have hit this informal settlement.

Situated along Chitungwiza Road, Hopley informal settlement is among several residential areas in and around Harare facing acute shortage of water cause by erratic rainfall and lack of a proper water-reticulation system.

With no piped water, let alone a community borehole, from where they can draw water, Hopley residents are now resorting to man-made holes known as “mufuku” to fetch water for domestic use.

“We come here after every three days to look for water. We would have wanted to come here every day, but it is not possible because you have to join the queue and wait for your turn, which takes about three or four days,” said Mai Kuku.

Those not patient enough to wait for days, walk a distance of two kilometres to fetch water at Irvines and a cotton production factory situated along Chitungwiza Road.

“Resilience” has become the buzzword for the residents of this informal settlement as the water situation has become so precariously, that some are now using water from the neighbouring Mukuvisi River, being sold for a song by some unscrupulous individuals.

“We buy 20litres of water for between two or three cents, depending on demand. It is pointless to ask the origins of the water because it is being fetched from Mukuvisi,” said Mr Albert Chareka, a Hopley resident.

At one time the local leadership attempted to have a community borehole installed, a move which was rejected by the majority of residents, arguing that the requested contributions of $2 per each household was too much. With more than 1300 households, the decision could have ameliorated water woes in the settlement.

“Our water situation is now dire. Last month (September) we requested residents to pay $2 from each household to have at least two community boreholes drilled in the area, but they rejected the deal.”

“It was embarrassing when the company we had hired to drill the boreholes, had to stop drilling halfway after residents refused to budge. We are yet to come up with another solution to ameliorate the situation that we find ourselves in,” said Zvikomborero Usai, aka Samutoko, who is Zanu-PF’s chairman for Hopley area.

With each day presenting new challenges, residents are now silently praying for the onset of the rains, which will only bring temporary relief. They are also hoping that the Government will soon provide them with piped water, once it realises residents’ plight.

The water crisis has been particularly devastating for women who now have to spend most of their time, fetching water instead of attending to other chores. With the majority of women in this residential relying on vending and other menial and piece jobs to supplement their family incomes, they have had to abandon these activities and devote the time to fetch water.

“We should not be spending sleepless nights worrying where we will get water, because it is a basic need that we should have access to. Our lives have been disrupted and we do not know when this will end.

“With no alternative accommodation for the majority of people who live here, we just have to soldier on. We however remain optimistic that our problem will be resolved,” said Mbuya Chipiwa, who has been living in Hopley Zone Six since 2012.

Access to clean water continues to pose headaches for the Government despite concerted efforts it has been making to ensure that the problem is resolved. Major cities like Harare and Chitungwiza have been facing serious water shortages in the last six months which are being attributed to infrastructural challenges.

Harare City Council says it losing 65 percent of all the water it is purifying through leaks from dilapidated infrastructure. Sadly for the municipality, it is not in a financial position to constantly provide enough water daily for domestic and industrial use as its reservoirs are too small and highly polluted for a fast growing population estimated to be 2,1 million residents.

The city council says that the city needs 1400 megalitres daily, but the best it can do is to provide 650 megalitres – less than half of the required figure.

Lake Chivero, the sole major dam serving the Harare, has thousands of litres of raw effluent pumped into it every day from the city’s sewerage farm. With such a scenario hopes for Hopley residents of clean water from the city, will remain a pipeline dream. The Government concedes that lack of clean water has indeed become a problem.

Officially opening the Water Resources and Investment Summit that was held in Harare this year Vice-President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa lamented the lack of access to clean and potable water for the most vulnerable groups in the country.

“Women and children walk long distances in search of water and this is affecting children’s learning,” he said, adding that this has seen people in urban areas, for instance, going for days and even weeks without water and at times, relying on unsafe water sources, which is an infringement of their rights. Section 77a of the Constitution of Zimbabwe recognises the right to safe, clean and potable water.

Besides water being equated to life, dependable water supply is important to an economy because it contributes to economic growth. According to studies, economies are based on engagement in economic activities that produce goods and services. Such interactions depend on water supplies, with individuals requiring it for their health, survival, and lifestyle in order to be productive.

Illness, malnourishment, and treatment for water-related diseases take an enormous economic toll on individuals and their communities, according to experts, who contend that water is also crucial for the production of goods.

With Zimbabwe’s 2008 cholera horror, still fresh in the minds of many, water woes are already fuelling fears of outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases.

No comments: