Zimbabwe joined the international community in commemorating 2015 World Toilet Day Thursday. The United Nations reports that 2.4 billion people do not have adequate sanitation and 1 billion people still defecate in the open.
This year’s celebrations come in the wake of concerns that Hararians are simply defecating everywhere, including in the city centre, behind shop buildings and open spaces.
To make matters worse, most public toilets in central Harare and high density suburbs are not functional or closed due to lack of water while others have been taken over by vendors who now use them as storage facilities. For example, the public toilet located at Charge Office Bus terminus is opened at about 9am and closed by 5pm when council workers knock off work. This means people end up urinating and excreting outside the toilet thereby posing a huge health hazard. Increased open defecation practices can also be witnessed at Kamunhu Shopping Centre in Mabvuku where the public toilet is often locked despite high human traffic at the area.
At Makomva Business Centre in Glen View, the public toilet operates in the absence of running water and this again poses health hazards to residents especially given that food and meat are openly sold by vendors despite the presence of a haven of flies.
Community Water Alliance Chairperson, Hildaberta Rwambiwa says sewage bursts and poor sewerage treatment by Harare City Council has worsened the situation. “Despite the fact that in Harare Urban most people use toilets, the use of toilets is rendered useless by unattended sewerage bursts and failure to treat sewerage by the City of Harare at Firle and Crowborough treatment plants, “ says Rwambiwa who also warns stakeholders to be alert of a health hazard in the city saying, “We warn council, residents and critical stakeholders that non treatment and unsafe disposal of human excreta from toilets have serious public health consequences that are characterised by the spread of diseases and pollution of river systems hence urgent action must be taken.”
Currently diarrhea is the fourth highest cause of death for children under five in Zimbabwe, and is the reason for 12% of child hospital admissions.
Currently there are 90 public toilets in central Harare and although council says 88 are working, most of them have no running water, especially those that offer free services.
These situations buttress the findings of The 2014 Africa Water and Sanitation Report which indicated that Zimbabwe is currently regressing in terms of access to sanitation, in 1990 access to sanitation was at 66% and by 2013 it was at 59%.
The aim of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about the people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation.