Working on sustainable water and sanitation initiatives in Zimbabwe

4 December 2012, HARARE, Zimbabwe – With 82 per cent of water points still functioning, 96 per cent of latrines (in schools and clinics) still in use, and significant improvement in hygiene practices in Mount Darwin district (Mashonaland Central Province), the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society continues to successfully provide improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene in rural areas of the country. The organizations work in this area is part of the Global Water and Sanitation Initiative launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in 2005.

It was noted however that water tables are dropping and the output of some wells has reduced, a situation that is most likely related to climate variability.

Lucky Goteka, Acting Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, said: “Access to affordable and sustainable safe water and basic sanitation combined with improved hygiene practices are crucial to promote community health, resilience, and human dignity. Sanitation and hygiene promotion are the two most effective interventions for controlling endemic diarrhoea in Zimbabwe, and are the most cost-effective public health interventions.

“The Red Cross is committed to strengthen these two areas over the coming years.”

The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society and its partners have just completed an evaluation study to determine the sustainability and impact of the water and sanitation project completed in April 2010 that involved the rural population of the Mount Darwin area. The project has provided almost 61,000 people with safe water and 15,200 people with basic sanitation at household level and in schools and clinics. These measures were taken in concert with hygiene promotion activities that have engaged more than 150,000 people.

The project is implemented with support from the European Union and is built on a solid collaboration with the government of Zimbabwe, which provides coordination and technical support. The previous evaluation, completed in 2010, rated the initiative as ‘sustainable’ and highlighted the importance of using local strategies and resources that promote ownership and the continuation of interventions which rehabilitation to development.

Lessons learned from the Mt Darwin project have informed the implementation of the second water and sanitation project in this partnership. This four-year initiative, which began in 2011, involves the rural population of Chivi district, Masvingo Province, and will provide 100,000 people with safe water, 36,000 with basic sanitation and will undertake hygiene promotion activities targeting 100,000 people.

Currently in Zimbabwe, only 48 per cent of the population living in rural areas, uses improved and shared sanitation facilities. Access to safe water is presently at 69 per cent (JMP Report 2012).

Despite improvements, progress towards the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people without basic sanitation by 2015 will fall significantly short in the country.

Stefan Seebacher, Head of the IFRC Health Department, said: “The lack of access to adequate and sustainable sanitation facilities takes its highest toll on the poor and underprivileged. We need to explore ways of redressing this imbalance by adapting present delivery models and piloting new ones at a greater scale – we must get the balance right.”

The IFRC has recently launched an advocacy report that encourages donors to ‘get the balance right’ by prioritising funding for sanitation programmes in equal balance to funding that is focused on providing safe water.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 187 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Harare:
Takemore Mazuruse, Marketing & Public Relations Officer, Zimbabwe Red Cross Society
Mobile: +263 773 390 810

Oforbuike Nwobodo, Country Representative, IFRC
Mobile: +263 772 134 310

In Geneva:
Robert Fraser, Senior Officer, Water & Sanitation Coordinator, IFRC
Mobile: +41 (0)79 217 3303

Ombretta Baggio, Senior Officer, Health Communications, IFRC
Mobile: +41 (0)79 708 48 27