ZIMBABWE has seen a fall in the number of people defecating in the open – but 37 percent of the country’s 13 million people still don’t have access to a toilet, according to Finance Minister Tendai Biti.
In July 2010, a report produced by the World Bank showed over 50 percent of Zimbabweans – mainly in the rural areas – were using the bush for relief.
In his mid-term budget review presented to Parliament last Wednesday, Biti told MPs: “You will be shocked that 37 percent of our people are still using open defecation.”
The minister said provision of clean water and adequate sanitation facilities is critical for poverty reduction and development.
He announced that Britan’s Department for International Development (DFID) had committed to a US$53 million sanitation developmental programme in five provinces and 30 districts over four years.
He added: “The programme will cover water and sanitation infrastructure development and rehabilitation."
A 2010 World Bank report sparked anger when it concluded that Zimbabweans defecate in the open more than any other country in the world – rivalled only by Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The report showed just over one percent of the urban population had no access to toilets – but over half of the rural dwellers lacked access to sanitation facilities.
Commenting on the findings at the time, Piers Cross, the World Bank’s resident expert who was attached to the Water Ministry, said the government had taken its eye off sanitation programmes over the last 20 years leaving people to “s*** everywhere”.
“Latrine construction in rural areas peaked in 1987, but has declined ever since. The government must act on this crisis by coming up with a programme which clearly says ‘it’s not okay to s*** in the open’, and go on to give people alternatives. A large-scale sanitation behaviour change programme is needed to decrease open defecation and rehabilitate facilities,” Cross said.
Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo has been outspoken about open defecation, while calling for increased funding to help the rural population build pit latrines.
“There is a need to make promotions and organise behaviour change activities with specific budget lines for sanitation and hygiene. The priority must be to eliminate open defecation,” Nkomo said.