THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has challenged the government to scale up efforts to address sanitation problems in rural and urban areas amid revelations that 26% of households do not have toilet facilities.

ZLHR, which made the calls as the world celebrated World Toilet Day on Tuesday, also raised concern over outbreaks of preventable medieval diseases such as typhoid.

“On the World Toilet Day, ZLHR reminds government to scale up efforts to address the sanitation problem in urban and rural communities,” ZLHR said in a statement.

Commemorated every year on November 19, World Toilet Day aims to inspire collective action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

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This year’s theme, Leaving No One Behind, resonates with current global efforts towards achieving universal access to sanitation.

“Adequate sanitation is a human right and the State has an obligation to ensure that everyone has physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life,” ZLHR said.

“The benefits of a functional sanitation system is not limited to restoring dignity, but also leads to saving money that may end up being spent to get treatment for preventable diseases related to poor sanitation.”

“This admission was made during the presentation of the combined 11th to 15th periodic report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during its 65th ordinary session in the Gambia,” ZLHR said.

“It is a testimony that the scale of the problem of poor sanitation in Zimbabwe is serious. Open defecation remains a deeply-rooted practice.”

The organisation expressed concern that in this day and age, Zimbabwe continues to record typhoid outbreaks; a “medieval” waterborne disease that is largely preventable.

“The outbreaks of preventable waterborne diseases is a terrible consequence of local and central government’s failure to commit adequate resources, and lack of capacity to manage the country’s health care system and provide basic services such as water and sanitation infrastructure,” the statement read.

“ZLHR holds both local and central government accountable for outbreaks of such waterborne diseases. Government has dismally failed to fulfil fundamental constitutional obligations, particularly section 48, section 51, section 73, section 76 and section 77 of the Constitution, which places an obligation on State actors to ensure that citizens’ rights are not compromised, but progressively realised.”

ZLHR called on government to allocate adequate resources to ensure to everyone has a safe toilet by 2030 and provide clean, potable water and sanitary environs to curb the spread of preventable and deadly diseases.

The lawyers also challenged government to increase funding for provision of water, sanitation and hygiene and strive to achieve 15% allocation to health as stipulated in the Abuja Declaration to enhance the quality of life for citizens.