By Cary Jimenez, Development Outreach and Communications Officer at USAID/Zimbabwe
USAID/Zimbabwe commemorated World Water Day 2011 on March 23 with a special ceremony to draw attention to the efficiency and effectiveness of rainwater collection as a way to provide clean water to families and schools. The event took place at the Tasimukira Primary School in Chitungwiza, outside the capital, Harare.
Since 2009, USAID has supported the Peri-urban Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting (PROOF) program to provide safe drinking water to over 26,000 Zimbabweans in urban and rural areas. The program was initiated in response to the worst cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe’s recent history, which led to nearly 100,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths. Poor water and sanitation systems, inadequate access to health care, and underlying risk factors such as malnutrition contributed to the severity of the epidemic.
Through this project implemented by International Relief and Development, USAID provides clean water to Zimbabweans until the water system is overhauled. The initial phase of the program focused on the high-density suburbs of Harare and Chitungwiza. In June 2010, it expanded into Mutare and Buhera in southeastern Zimbabwe.
To date, USAID has supported the installation of 805 rain water collection systems serving 2,653 households and eight schools with over 26,000 total beneficiaries. All components of the rain water harvesting systems are manufactured in Zimbabwe, creating jobs and a nascent rain water collection industry in the free market.
Rain water collection systems consist of roof gutters and a water storage tank. The equipment provides abundant clean water during the rainy season, when the highest incidents of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, are seen. With regulated consumption and sufficient water storage capacity, these rainwater collection systems can provide clean drinking water all year round.
International World Water Day was first recognized by the United Nations in 1993. It is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of fresh water and to advocate for the sustainable management of fresh water resources. World Water Day 2011 emphasized the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, and conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.