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  • Minister facilitates all stakeholder solution to WASH crisis
    Ministry of Water Resources, Development & Management
    March 22, 2009

    With UNICEF indicating that the cholera crisis in Zimbabwe is reaching the proportions of a genocide, the new Minister of Water Resources, Development and Management, the Hon. Sam Sipepa Nkomo, organised a Water Summit for all Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) stakeholders in Bulawayo on Friday, March 20.

    It drew 167 participants from the public, private and NGO sectors, all of whom agreed to work together to resolve the WASH crisis affecting urban and rural Zimbabwe. The Minister assured stakeholders that they would find an open door at his ministry, in line with the new government's belief in participatory democracy.

    "I will form a Ministry Advisory Council to sit with the permanent secretary and me on a monthly basis so that we don't get lost. Let's walk with those NGOs who deliver water: let's do things together," he said. He added that he would shortly be announcing a new, gender sensitive board for ZINWA.

    The emergency recovery programme, launched the previous day, has rehabilitation of boreholes as a primary objective, to help women trudging many miles to collect water and children dying of disease. The Hon. Gordon Moyo, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in the President's Office, made this point in his keynote address and said: "There will no longer be a government monopoly in service delivery: the ministry should identify aspects where the private sector can deliver.

    "At the conclusion of this summit, sharpen the resolution to make everyone aware of water's role in our lives, its ability to create growth in a way that puts people back at the centre of the issue. Let us work together - the Prime Minister's office and government is engaging the international community so we can take Zimbabwe back into the community of nations: it is not government policy to deride other countries."

    UNICEF's WASH specialist, Max Jonga, presented a comprehensive report on what the WASH cluster believed were the problems and solutions to the crisis. The permanent secretary, Eng. R. J. Chitsiko, was delighted with the report and pleased to find out that the WASH Cluster existed.

    Speaker after speaker highlighted the problems: no chemicals, no repairs, no tools, no spares, no vehicles, no fuel, poor staffing levels and communications. While things have improved slightly since the handing back of responsibility for water and sewage to the municipalities - no sewage was treated during the ZINWA era - only 40 per cent of the water required is being delivered and 20 per cent of the sewage treated, according to Jones Nanhambwe, director of engineering services with Gweru Municipality.

    "People expect everything to work now but the people who came back from ZINWA came with nothing: no pipes, no chemicals, no vehicles, no shoes and worst of all no income - and a poor attitude. Communities do not take responsibility for their infrastructure - a ZESA transformer was stolen 12 metres from a councillor's house and nothing was done to stop this," he said.

    All speakers - engineers like Peter Morris, Peter Smith and Dr Sasha Jogi, ministry representatives, NGOs and municipal engineers - agreed that emergency solutions would not be hugely expensive nor take time to implement and that the required skills are still available in Zimbabwe.

    "We need to fix the leaks, repair burnt out switchboard and damaged pumps and get water moving to communities and through the sewers," Morris, a partner with Ncube Burrows Consulting Engineers, said. Jeff Broome, now with Ove Arup in the UK, flew out from Britain to share his experiences on the Accounting for Water project he undertook for Bulawayo agreed, saying that key deliverables are organising plumbers with tools, materials and correct information to solve problems.

    Jochen Hertle, a freelance consultant on the rural water supply project funded by the European Commission, Humanitarian Aid/Welthungerhilfe - GAA, believes that the entire rural water network could be repaired for between US$15 to 20 million. His project has repaired some 10,000 rural boreholes in total - some 20 per cent of the total - and in its current phase trained 2,125 voluntary pump minders and 7,472 water pump committees. He believes that a properly equipped DDF, working with an experienced Zimbabwean consultancy, could resolve the problems fast.

    In his presentation the permanent secretary outlined the situation on the ground and dealt with the challenges his ministry faced. Eng. Israel Rwodzi, ZINWA's director of maintenance and engineering services, gave an overview of the catchment areas and the situation with the country's dams. The Hon. Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo, Minister of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development, commended the initiative and promised to adopt the holistic farming approach presented by Alan Savory, founder of the International Centre for Holistic Management.

    Tal Hoesler from the Canadian Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology presented an effective and economical home water filter, details of which are available from One Way Ministries.

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