Zimbabwe: UN acts to prevent water-borne disease in Harare

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 15 Jan 2004
(New York, 15 January 2003) - In Zimbabwe, people living in Harare and outlying areas are now getting a steady supply of clean water. This breakthrough is the result of the combined efforts of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The measure has helped avert possible outbreaks of water-borne diseases for some 1.4 million people.
Zimbabwe's economic crisis had made it impossible to purchase adequate water purification chemicals. As a result, the city could not provide a regular supply of clean water. A USAID grant of US$ 200,000, channelled through UNDP, has allowed the purchase of chemicals needed for water purification. The grant has made it possible for Harare to increase its clean water stocks from enough for one day to as many as four days' worth. The city had problems in maintaining a constant water supply to all its residents due to inadequate chemicals because of foreign currency shortages.

In the long-term, however, the supply of clean water to Harare remains a concern. The city's two main reservoirs are downstream of the area's industry and are susceptible to pollution. Zimbabwe's dire economic situation makes it nearly impossible to fund repairs and maintenance of Harare's infrastructure, leading to such events as the rupture of pipes carrying treated water. Further, the city's growing population would indicate that the water system requires an upgrade.

What began as a food crisis in Zimbabwe in 2002 has grown into a major humanitarian emergency, with people suffering the effects of a deteriorating economy, HIV/AIDS, depleted social services, and policy constraints. As the country enters its fifth successive year of economic decline, Zimbabwe faces critical shortages of foreign exchange to maintain essential infrastructure and inflation has soared. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is central to the crisis. Recent estimates indicate that around 34 per cent of Zimbabwe's 15-40 age group is infected, and more than 2,500 people die every week of AIDS-related causes.

The crisis affecting households has translated into escalating needs. But delivery of health, education, social and public services has been undermined by a lack of finance and the loss of human resources to emigration and AIDS. One result is that malaria, tuberculosis and cholera cases are on the rise. Another result is that Zimbabweans face a severe food security crisis in 2004. An estimated 5.5 million people will require food aid during the coming year.

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