AS ZIMBABWE joined the world in marking World Water Day on March 22, the importance of water — especially in the face of the coronavirus outbreak — in fighting the virus has become topical.
While this year’s theme was “Water and Climate Change” which explored how water and climate change are inextricably linked, one of the things we can do to contain the spread of coronavirus is to keep excellent hand hygiene through the use of running tap water.
However, regular hand washing with soap and running water can be difficult in Zimbabwe due to lack of water in most communities, some which have gone for months or even years without a single drop from their taps.
It will be very difficult when the majority of our communities don’t have enough water to drink and cook. A time shall come when government will be forced to create water points in residential as well as industrial areas.
There is also a high risk that the impact of coronavirus on the urban poor will be considerably higher as maintaining social distancing is extremely difficult in overcrowded areas.
Government will also have to give priority to the elderly and people living with chronic medical conditions, who are the most vulnerable to coronavirus, in the provision of water and sanitation.
World Water Day was also celebrated amid concerns that climate change is impacting our ability to access water for drinking purposes, food, health and energy production and the wellbeing of human beings.
In Zimbabwe, millions of people lack basic hygiene facilities in their homes, schools and at work places. Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have learnt how water, along with soap, are essential to containing the spread of the pandemic, as well as other infectious diseases.
The majority of Zimbabweans know today through various campaigns that hand hygiene saves lives. As our national population grows, so does the demand for water, which depletes natural resources and damages the environment in many places.
This calls for protection of our wetlands, adopting climate-smart agricultural techniques and increasing the safe reuse of waste water, thus balance all of society’s water needs while ensuring the poorest people don’t get left behind.
While World Water Day might be behind us, we should not forget that water is an essential part of our climate.
Zimbabwe needs sound water resources management through training of water managers who can work with communities and prioritise water provision.