By Fadzai Lee Midzi-Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
On 22 March 2020 we were celebrating world water day, acknowledging the importance of water.
In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and the climate change discourse, water remains a critical resource which is getting scarce by the day yet key in preventing the spread of diseases. In Africa water resources have been made scarce due to drought and poor wetland management. In an era were most African countries are rapidly urbanising, water accessibility comes as a great challenge for most people, Zimbabwe being no exception. Governments have made efforts to improve service delivery although a lot stills needs to be done including making the water potable.
Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all reads Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 which should be advanced especially that water remains a necessity with or without viruses such as COVID-19. We are faced with a harsh reality of poor water services especially the urban poor and the rural population who are forced by circumstances to travel long distances in search of the precious liquid. This means the burden of this virus falls heavily on women who are the main actors in delivering SDG 6 at household level. In a month where we are celebrating women let’s not forget their important role in preventing the spread of this pandemic in our midst. Fervent calls have been made to continuously empower women and such times of public health disaster are a wakeup call for each one of us to do more. What is perhaps, disheartening is to note that besides all the efforts being made to sensitise people of this disease, there are people who still lack safe water, sanitation and handwashing facilities.
In Zimbabwe the mining sector is anticipated to contribute towards the achievement of the country’s upper middle-income economy by 2030. In such a crisis, mining giants should be working tirelessly by offering support in containing COVID-19. Recently the Global Fund donated USD25Million to respond against Covid-19 .Transparency is key in making sure that duty bearers are held accountable in handing such resources for covid-19 preparedness and delivery of SDG 6. Organisations such as the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) are working tirelessly to promote transparency and accountability in public revenue expenditure to enhance local service delivery and citizen benefit. Zimbabwe has vast mineral deposits and revenue generated from these must translate to agile responsiveness to disasters drawing lessons learnt from the recent Cyclone Idai.
We must take time to reflect on the mining affected communities who remain vulnerable to disasters including the virus, especially those who were relocated to pave way for mining operations but are still struggling with basic sanitation services. Dwindling water supplies due to drought has also been a major setback for everyone. According to Life Water ’s 10 facts about the world water crisis “In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend an estimated 40 billion hours a year collecting safe water” these hours are literally going to increase due to the demand for water to stop the spread of Covid-19 virus.
In a time of closure of schools and public business, women are faced with a responsibility of making sure that their children and families are protected from contracting the virus. Burden continues to be placed on women who are expected to provide basic services such as water especially in this critical public health disaster. Young girls also bear the burden as they are expected to help their mothers. In Shona they call this ‘’musha mukadzi” loosely translated, a home is established because of a woman, cementing the role women play in delivering household services.
As we celebrate women during this History month and beyond, we call on Governments to give women all the support they need not forgetting lifting the burden on access to clean water. Let’s not forget that an equal world is an enabled world, together we can make this harsh reality a thing of the past for not only women but for everyone.
To everyone out there let’s do everything in
our capacity to protect ourselves and others against COVID-19.