African Development Bank speeds US $16-million relief for water and sanitation in Zimbabwe

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The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) fast-tracked a grant of US $16-million on Wednesday, September 30, to help clean up the poorest suburbs of the Zimbabwean capital. The first stage of the project will concentrate on removing the raw sewage currently spilled into residential areas and securing the water supply for the most vulnerable areas of Greater Harare, home to 2 million people.

Decades of neglect have paid their toll on Zimbabwe’s water and sanitation facilities. An estimated 20% of the population in the beneficiary areas is exposed to raw sewage and many communities rely on water drawn from contaminated sources. To remediate in the most efficient and cost-effective way, the AfDB project will notably rehabilitate 9 pumping stations and 4 sewage treatment plants, replace 28 kilometres of broken sewer pipes and repair a decrepit water supply distribution network.

The Zimbabwe Government’s national plan to restore the economy to its pre-crisis levels recognizes the need for urgent investment in water and sanitation in order to avoid a repetition of the 2008/2009 cholera epidemic which claimed 4,300 lives. Water-borne illnesses, and diarrhea in particular, are currently the leading cause of mortality in children under five and a huge strain on social well-being in Zimbabwe. Women, as caregivers, bear the brunt of the water and sanitation crisis.

Financial resources are to be channeled through “Zim-Fund”, a multi-donor trust fund and collaborative effort between members of the donor community and the Government of Zimbabwe. Zim-Fund is supported by United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Australia, and administered by a dedicated AfDB special Management Unit.

In addition to Harare, the towns of Chitungwiza, Ruwa, part of Greater Harare, Redcliff and other towns throughout Zimbabwe will see their water and sanitation facilities rehabilitated as part of the project.

With support from its Zimbabwe field office, the AfDB, alongside Zim-Fund donors, will seek to follow-on from emergency investments in basic water and sanitation services, to development that includes health education and capacity-building.

Speaking at the AfDB Board meeting Wednesday, Mohamed El Azizi, Director of the AfDB Water and Sanitation Department, said, “We take this opportunity to thank the Zim-Fund contributors. The previous Zim-Fund project supported the restoration and stabilization of water supply and sewerage services for an estimated population of 2.5 million. The new funding is an important contribution to meeting urgent water and sanitation needs of the most vulnerable. ”