Open defecation in Matabeleland North has remained high due to a lack of decent ablution facilities, a situation which human rights defenders have attributed to a lack of investment in the province by the government.
The province has the highest number of people in the country who relieve themselves in the open, according to the latest Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report.
According to the report, open defecation is the disposal of human faeces in fields, forests, bushes, open bodies of water, beaches, or other open spaces or with solid waste.
“Twenty-seven percent of rural households practised open defecation. Mashonaland East (77percent) had the highest proportion of households with improved sanitation. Matabeleland North (50%) had the highest proportion of households practicing open defecation,” read the report.
The report noted that most districts in Matabeleland North practised open defaecation.
“Most districts in Matabeleland North had over 50 percent of households practising open defecation. Open defecation in Matabeleland North has been consistently high over the years,” said the report.
The practice is prevalent in Tsholotsho (52%), Lupane (61%), and Binga (67%).
However, the situation seems to have improved in Nkayi District which has always topped in the province. It has since moved a bit from the high zones to 49 percent of people practising open defecation.
According to the constitution of Zimbabwe section 73 (1) (a) provides that every person has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and section 73 (1) (b) states that every person has the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution, promote conservation, and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting economic and social development.
Human Rights defender, Effie Ncube said this is a result of years of underinvestment in Matabeleland North.
“Let us not forget that the province was the richest in the country in 1980 but today it is the poorest just 42 years later. This is not an accident, it is a result of deliberate underinvestment in Matabeleland and Matabeleland North is showing, reflecting that under-investment and of particular note has been the under-investment in water and sanitation,” said Ncube.
He said the province is still underserved when it comes to clean water and safe sanitation, “that is why people are still practising open defecation, this is a result of underinvestment by the government.”