HARARE, March 29, 2011 -- Since 2009, World Bank teams have been visiting Beitbridge, the gateway to the north of Zimbabwe for traffic from South Africa, to assess the water supply and sanitation problems confronting this important border town.
The hard work of the past two years was realized on March 4, 2011, with the launch of the Beitbridge Emergency Water Supply and Sanitation Project. Supported by a US$2.65 million grant from the World Bank in emergency assistance, the project aims to help Beitbridge avert further outbreaks of cholera and save lives.
On some days, Beitbridge only has water for an hour or two. Town Secretary for Beitbridge Town Council, Dr. S. Singo, described the provision of clean water and sanitation services to the town “as a life saver.” Beitbridge is growing rapidly and the infrastructure is unable to support the small town, Singo said.
“With this project, the World Bank is also making a significant entry to our water and sanitation problems,” said Singo. “We are happy that the World Bank is assisting us with water to wash our faces.”
Beitbridge is regarded as the busiest border post in Zimbabwe and perhaps in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. This grant fund will be used to repair critical infrastructure that has the potential to avert a health crisis in Zimbabwe that could possibly spill over to South Africa. The project is expected to have significant impact on improving water and health in Beitbridge as well as building institutions at the local level.
The major objective of this project is to improve the region’s access to sustainable quality of water supply and sanitation services. It will benefit an estimated 40,000 people who live in Beitbridge as well as the estimated 2,000 transit passengers that cross through each day.
The project is divided into three main activities: water treatment supply and rehabilitation with focus on rehabilitation of the abstraction system; rehabilitation of water treatment works; and improvement of the water distribution system and installation of 400 water meters.
The second activity relates to the sewage treatment rehabilitation and improvement of solid waste management with focus on: rehabilitation and improvement of solid waste which involves upgrading the sewer trunk mains to reduce blockages; improving solid waste management by procuring one dumper truck and two refuse collection tractors; and conducting feasibility studies for the identification and design of a new dump site.
The third activity is Strengthening Institutional Capacity with focus on assisting the Beitbridge Town Council with engineering consultants, training and procurement of equipment to support the project.
Singo said Beitbridge Town Council and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) were fully committed to the project.
“The people of Beitbridge should support the council and ZINWA to enable this project to succeed,” Singo said in thanking the World Bank, which was represented by Matthewos Woldu.
The US$2.65 million grant will cover about 90 percent of the total project cost and will come from the State and Peace Building Fund. The Grant fund is administered by the World Bank. The project is expected to be completed within 18 months. The Beitbridge Town Council and ZINWA will be responsible for overall implementation of the project.
Preventing cholera outbreaks with clean water
The deterioration of water and sanitation services in Zimbabwe resulted in a cholera outbreak throughout the country in 2008 and 2009. There were more than 90,000 cases of cholera, resulting in more than 4,000 deaths.
Beitbridge, which is located along the border with South Africa, was one of the worst affected towns, accounting for 26 percent of all cholera cases recorded nationally.
Other organizations that came to Beitbridge’s rescue included UNICEF which provided 15 boreholes and monthly water treatment chemicals and World Vision which drilled 16 boreholes and completed water storage tank and water connection to some houses.
Mathewos Woldu said the World Bank believes the project would meet the twin goals of reliable and affordable service delivery and capacity improvement.
“We expect all partners in this project to learn three important lessons: Number one – what a future successful rehabilitation of water and sanitation services, especially in small towns, will require in terms of financial, technical capacity, implementation arrangements that involve collaboration between Town Council and ZINWA; Number two – to draw useful lessons on how communities, the private sector, NGOs, and other local stakeholders can work with local and central government in the delivery of services; and Number three – particularly learn from the experiences of the Beitbridge project,” he said.
Woldu said the World Bank considers it reasonable for water bills to contribute about 5% of the revenue of a town like Beitbridge.
“Currently, water constitutes 10% of total monthly revenue for Beitbridge Town Council, and it will be necessary for the Town Council to diversify its sources of income as there are countries in Africa where the levels of income from water bills is as low as 2-3% of monthly income,” Woldu said.
Comments from Beitbridge’s female residents:
Sithembile Moyo, School Head: “Firstly we need water for sanitation purposes as women. Secondly, ‘Green is life’, but living in Beitbridge there is nothing green except during the rainy season.”
Regina Mokena, Beitbridge Residents’ Association and Business Community: “We would love to have our own vegetable gardens and plant trees. All this is not possible in Beitbridge because of the heat, which is worsened by not having running water in our homes.”
Monica Moyo, Community Health Worker: “Without adequate water there are a lot of health issues that affect households. As a health worker, we find it difficult to promote healthy living when there is no water.”
Elizabeth Gwenya, Educationist: “At times we are forced to dismiss pupils from school because of water problems. We know that we are sending them home where there is no water but at least its better because it’s home. New houses being built and those in the old location do not have running water. Residents in these areas use the bush for ablution. This in turn causes a lot of diseases. People rely on water bowsers for their supplies.”