A report launched by the Human Rights Watch in Harare on Tuesday blames persistent water and sanitation shortages in the country on government mismanagement and corruption.
The human rights watchdog group says millions of residents’ lives have been put at risk as water borne diseases tend to flourish in such conditions.
The 60-page report titled “Troubled Water: Burst Pipes, Contaminated Wells and Open Defecation in Zimbabwe’s Capital” says residents in Harare have little access to portable water and sanitation services.
It says the residents often resort to drinking water from shallow, unprotected wells that are contaminated with sewage as people sometimes defecate outdoors.
Officially launching the report, Dewa Mavhinga senior researcher for Zimbabwe at Human Rights Watch’s Southern Africa division, said their research shows there is a lack of prioritization in terms of resources, adding there seems to be no strong will by the authorities to resolve the water crisis.
He said central government and the local authority have failed to coordinate to resolve the water crisis. He added that the two need to work together in rehabilitating and upgrading the country’s water and sewerage system in Harare in particular.
Mavhinga urged the Ministry of Local Government to ensure that money meant for water is used just for that purpose.
One of the recommendations by Human Right Watch is for the Harare City Council to stop disconnecting residents for non-payment of water charges and implement low cost sanitation and water strategies such as providing community toilets, drilling and maintaining boreholes.
Mavhinga said the Ministry of Health and Child Care must ensure all the public boreholes are regularly tested.
He said the donor community should provide technical assistance and expertise to help address the water and sanitation issues in Harare.
Representatives of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) and the Harare Residents Trust (HRT), who attended the launch, applauded the report saying it captures the problems their members face on a day to day basis in Harare.
CHRA chairman Simbarashe Moyo urged city residents to push city authorities to provide safe and clean water.
The report was based on 80 interviews and information collected during eight weeks of field research in eight high density suburbs in Harare between September 2012 and October 2013.
Harare was chosen for the study because of its continued threat of outbreak of waterborne diseases since the cholera epidemic of 2008 to 2009.