Home » Governance » Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – What We Should Aim for Post-2015 [analysis]

It is true – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have helped developing countries such as Zimbabwe to achieve many tangible results especially in the fields of education and to some extent health. But it is also true that there is a significant amount of “unfinished business” left to sort out. In the area of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) this is especially the case.

Urban municipalities and their residents in particular are painfully aware of this. According to the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), more than 34 percent of the people in Zimbabwe still lack access to improved sources of drinking water.

The MICS further reminds us as a country that we are still way off track to meet the sanitation target, with 38 percent of the people still lacking access to improved sanitation, and 32 percent of the people practicing open defecation.

So it is not surprising that as September 2015 (the deadline for the MDGs) approaches we should begin to introspect if as a country we are to avoid the perennial challenge of water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

It is important to begin the discussion on what our new WASH targets will be come 2016 and how progress towards them should be measured.

Avoiding the trap of having this crucial information based on the opinions of just a few people is critical if we are to avoid the same pitfalls faced with the MDGs.

It is important that as a country our ambition be that of achieving universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene and specifically aim to eliminate open defecation, halving the proportion of the population without access at home to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services and progressively eliminate inequalities in access to quality WASH services by 2030.

As clearly shown by the MICS on open defecation, it is clear that no one in both rural and urban areas should be left behind in any post-2015 WASH strategy.

When considering aspects of sanitation, it is particularly important to ensure that all people have decent services such as proper toilets and hand washing facilities.

For example, if open defecation is practiced by even a few people, then the whole community continues to suffer the health consequences.

There is also an immediate need to eliminate inequalities that currently exists in accessing WASH services.

This is not just a moral imperative.

The right to water and sanitation has been recognised by the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.

Zimbabwe thus must, take steps to ensure the gradual reduction and eventual elimination of inequalities associated with access to WASH services.

Addressing the challenge of open defecation is very critical.

This is where people, either through preference or because of lack of facilities, defecate in rivers, in fields — anywhere they can.

It carries significant public health risks, and it is the poorest and most marginalised who are disproportionately affected.

Thus, the challenge of open defecation warrants explicit mention within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) come 2016.

We should also not forget hygiene.

This is one area which is often neglected in the WASH matrix.

There are good ways to measure access to facilities for hand washing and menstrual hygiene management especially in schools, and from this to infer on what needs to be done.

Encouraging behaviour change will have a huge impact on health and dignity, particularly for women and girls.

As we strategise for the post-2015 era, we should also be prepared to go beyond just targeting households with WASH related interventions.

It is never enough to have facilities at home, if you cannot use toilets, wash your hands, or have access to safe drinking water at other places such as schools and hospitals.

There are encouraging signs that the importance of WASH is being recognised as shown by the commitment to improve WASH services by senior government officials and development partners who are supporting various urban and rural WASH projects. However, more still needs to be done.

There are also positive signs that the SDGs will reflect the potential for improved WASH to contribute to a broad range of development concerns. Everyone thus needs to be engaged and stand ready to offer what should be done to improve WASH-related interventions in Zimbabwe.

Source : The Herald