via 40% of Zim rural folk practice open defecation – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 2, 2015
LACK of sanitary toilets is one of the principal contributors to childhood diarrhoea, a leading killer disease for children under five, but over 40% of the rural folk in Zimbabwe are still practicing open defecation.
By Phyllis Mbanje
“Almost half of the rural populace is still practicing open defection, and this raises concerns on disease outbreaks which are costly to manage,” said Elizabeth Mupfumira, a communications specialist from UNICEF.
Addressing media participants recently in Masvingo, Mupfumira said the practice was taking long in being totally eradicated because of attitudes learned over time.
“It has ceased to be a question of lack of Blair toilets only but also changing attitudes is a challenge,” she explained.
A recent report from the ministry of health indicated that diarrheal diseases were the most prevalent with nearly 300 000 cases reported since the beginning of the year and 323 deaths in the same period.
Over 60% of the figures were children under five years of age.
Open defecation is a perennial problem and in 2010, a World Bank expert on water and sanitation Piers Cross declared Zimbabwe, the worst country at this practice.
Latrine construction in rural areas peaked in 1987, but has declined since. The government has been accused of failing to afford poor communities subsidies for infrastructure renewal.
A 2013 report by the Human Rights Watch stated that poor sanitation practices like open defecation, lack of water for hand washing lead to outbreaks of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid.
“Open defecation also has an impact on personal dignity and impacts negatively on economic development,” read part of the report.
However, development partners in collaboration with the government have been making great strides in stamping out open defecation.
Since June 2012, the Department for International Development (DFID) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), with technical support from UNICEF, funded the Rural WASH programme to the tune of US$59 million.
The programme covers 33 districts in five provinces: Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and South and Mashonaland West.