GWANDA villager Absalom Sibanda says his seven-member family survived a recent violent storm by hiding in a toilet.The storm, which flattened the family’s house, pounded Gwanda’s ward 1 area in Matabeleland South on November 10, destroying over 62 homesteads and classroom blocks at five schools.

BY SILAS NKALA

He said he could have died in the house when it collapsed during the storm.Sibanda narrated the ordeal on Thursday as the world celebrated the United Nations (UN)’s World Toilet Day, the day set aside to commemorate the importance of toilets as one of the major infrastructures for health and sanitation.

The World Toilet Day is commemorated on November 19 and this year, it was celebrated under the theme Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change.
Sibanda said his family house was destroyed during the violent storm which only spared the toilet.

“The house began to fall and I tried to balance bricks, but to no avail. Fearing that my family would be more vulnerable, I took my wife and five children and we ran to hide in a toilet. We hid there for about 40 minutes until the storm subsided,” Sibanda said.

The Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) this week visited the area to assess damage caused.

“After the storm, realising that our house had collapsed, our neighbours came and found us in the toilet.”

In a statement yesterday, MIHR encouraged communities and governments to take time to reflect on the importance of toilets.

In choosing the 2020 World Toilet Day theme, the United Nations recognises that “everyone must have sustainable sanitation that can withstand climate change and keep communities healthy and functioning”.

“MIHR has observed that after the destruction that happened in Gwanda where houses, school classroom blocks and shops were destroyed by the storm, surprisingly, not even one toilet was destroyed,” MIHR said.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) also joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Toilet Day.

The lawyers grouping implored local and central governments to accelerate implementation of sustainable sanitation.

“The aspiration to have safe toilets and achieve sanitation for all is contained in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which is pivotal to helping break taboos around toilets and making sanitation for all a global development priority,” ZLHR said.

“World Toilet Day, which is a UN designated day, is commemorated each year on November 19 to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and raise awareness of the 4,2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation.”

ZLHR said through a resolution which was adopted in July 2013 declaring World Toilet Day, the UN seeks to encourage member States and other stakeholders to encourage behavioural change and the implementation of policies to increase access to sanitation among people, along with a call to end the practice of open-air defecation, which is harmful to public health.
“In Zimbabwe, recent revelations contained in a report entitled Management of Sewage Systems by the Urban Local Authorities under the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing published by the Auditor-General’s Office are unsettling.

“The report revealed that the majority of people living in Zimbabwe’s urban areas were exposed to drinking sewage-contaminated water due to poor sanitation management systems provided by local authorities,” ZLHR said.

“The Auditor-General’s assessment reflects the adverse health effects caused by poor sanitation and water supply.

“ZLHR is worried by the perennial failure by local authorities and central government to manage sanitation systems and to allocate financial resources, which sadly has led to unnecessary loss of lives due to the outbreak of some waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea, which are preventable diseases that can only be eradicated when sanitation is properly managed.”

ZLHR said it was sad to note that these violations were taking place at a time citizens’ right to a clean environment was now explicitly guaranteed in section 73 of the Constitution and in section 77 of the Constitution which provides for the right to safe, clean and potable water.

It implored local authorities to fully account for all the funds charged to ratepayers for water and sewerage in order to progressively contribute towards the realisation of the right to a clean environment, health care and safe, clean and potable water.

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