The UN World Water Day has been held on 22 March every year since 1993. It seeks to call attention to the importance of this resource and to raise awareness of the fact that water is a fundamental human right. The devastating consequences of water shortages or floods can currently be seen in many countries in Africa. The droughts or floods caused by the weather phenomenon El Nino have completely destroyed the crops in many places. As a direct result, an estimated 45 million people in Africa are at risk. Zimbabwe has already declared a state of emergency, making it all the more important to do something for the people who are affected. The Aid by Trade Foundation has been committed to this aim since 2015 in tandem with partners OTTO Austria, Welthungerhilfe and DEG with funds from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Devel-opment (BMZ). In a show of solidarity, the partners are joining forces to fight for clean drinking water and proper sanitation in the areas in which CmiA cotton is grown in rural Zimbabwe.
Aims pursued by the project
There are 780 million people in the world who do not have access to clean drinking water. 2.5 billion people do not have proper sanitation. The Aid by Trade Foundation is taking action in response to this situation with its part-ners. The water and sanitation project was launched in March 2015 – with the aim of providing 20 schools in the cotton growing region of Gokwe South and the surrounding villages with access to clean water and hygienic sanitary facilities. The people in the Gokwe South district are affected to an above-average extent by an inadequate water supply and poor sanitation in that only 61 percent have access to clean water. Adequate sanitary installations are available to only 18 percent of the population.
It is important to raise the awareness of the people and to equip them to take responsibility in order to ensure that the communities can benefit from the investment in the long term. Over the course of the project, therefore, the goal is to sustain or establish 20 water committees which will be respon-sible for the management and maintenance of the wells. A gender-sensitive sanitary infrastructure will also be introduced or improved at 20 schools, and 20 school health clubs will promote good health and hygiene practices in the towns and villages in future.
Why the water supply and sanitation facilities play such an important role
An analysis of the situation – referred to as the baseline assessment – in the project region of Gokwe South in Zimbabwe illustrates clearly why it is so important to start with the water supply and sanitation in order to help the local people:
• Two thirds of the households surveyed have less than 100 USD per month at their disposal (with an average of six persons per house-hold), putting them below the poverty line.
• 34% of the households are reliant upon water from unprotected sources.
• An average distance of 1.7 km is covered every day in order to fetch water. For 10% of the households, however, the necessary distance is 3 km.
• The time taken to fetch water averages out at 60 minutes per day. In rural Africa it usually falls to the girls and women to fetch water for their families.
• 50.3% of the households surveyed do not have any sanitary facilities and have to use the bushes.
• 86.2% of the households have nowhere to wash their hands.
• Only 8.5% of the households have access to running water to wash their hands.
• Half of the schools surveyed use water from unprotected sources.
• In many cases the pupils need to take their own water with them or fetch water in the breaks.
According to the United Nations, the majority of illnesses in developing countries can be ascribed to inadequate sanitation and to the lack of access to clean drinking water. Children under the age of five are particularly af-fected by this situation.
Achievements to date
Dialog with the local people and an analysis of the current provision are the main priorities in order to ensure that the money gets to where it is most needed. The potential villages and schools have now already been identified and the first kick-off meeting has been held with head teachers and the re-sponsible authorities. Once the schools and villages have been identified for the project, the next step will be to set up the project training courses and campaigns which will be aimed at around 5,000 pupils. They will be trained up to become “hygiene ambassadors” so that they can spread the word and pass their knowledge on to their families. The first training courses were held only recently. The young people selected to become hygiene ambas-sadors learned how important their role is for both the community and the project. They were also shown by way of practical examples how a broken well can be repaired. Some of the schools and communities identified in the initial baseline analysis have already benefited from these practical ses-sions. Here are a few impressions.