So what does the human right to water and sanitation actually look like?

by | Apr 15, 2015 | Blogs

To help answer this question, the National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO) working with the Public Participation Platform members under the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in Zimbabwe, has developed a set of indicators to track the government’s progress in realising the human right to water.

The Public Participation Platform conducted research in 6 districts (includes urban and rural wards) – Chimanimani, Chivi, Gweru, Hwange, Mangwe and Marondera – using the AAAQ framework, a tool developed by the Danish Human Rights Institute, to assess whether their right is being met. The results are striking:


According to WHO between 50 and 100 litres of water per person per day are needed to ensure most basic needs are met and health risks kept at a minimum. But the AAAQ household questionnaire survey results show four of the study districts falling short of this international standard. The average availability ranged between a high of 100 litres per capita per day in Hwange and a low of 9.5 litres in Marondera. The average water availability for the other districts were Mangwe 57.5 litres per capita per day, Chimanimani 14.6 litres, Gweru Urban 28.5 litres, Gweru Rural 28.2 litres and Chivi 27.5 litres.

Water supply disruptions result in residents collecting additional water from alternative, albeit free, sources that are usually unsafe – such as protected and unprotected deep wells, a dam reservoir serving Marondera town and burst connections on main holes. Across the study districts, Marondera Urban had the highest percentage (87.6) of residents reporting collection of additional water from alternative sources.


The household survey revealed different primary water sources for urban and rural residents. Boreholes were identified as the dominant primary water source in all the districts except Hwange where piped water into dwellings was given as the primary source. Other sources included dams, protected and unprotected wells. Except for the few households with boreholes and piped water within homesteads, the majority of residents of study districts access water from communal boreholes. 67.7 percent across all the study districts reported sharing communal boreholes with at least 100 other households.

International standards stipulate that a person should travel less than 1km and take less than 30 minutes to collect water if it is outside one’s dwelling. High proportions of residents in rural areas in Chivi (40%), Mangwe (39%) and Gweru Rural (26%) travel more than 1km to collect water. Extreme cases were reported in rural areas of the same districts were some residents travel between 5 and 10km to collect water. This most adversely affects the elderly and people living with disabilities.

Average amounts spent on water by residents range between $1.81 per month per household in Mangwe and $39.94 in Hwange. Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) indicated that these are amounts that most households find difficult to raise because of the prevailing economic hardships. Household incomes are mainly from self or informal employment.


The household questionnaire survey and FGDs revealed that acceptability of water positively correlates with water quality. Water has to be of an acceptable colour, taste and odour but between 11 – 52% of residents in all communities expressed dissatisfaction with water they receive.


Chivi residents pointed to occasions of dissatisfaction when water from underserviced boreholes is oily and reddish in colour. Mangwe residents also highlighted the problem of water being sometimes salty and difficult to drink. Marondera residents complained of bad colour and odour of water that they sometimes receive.


It’s clear that many individuals are being denied their human right to water and sanitation but the Public Participation Platform which NAYO is part of are using this evidence to push their government to improve the situation, as part of the Keep Your Promises campaign.

This involves developing a National Plan of Action on Citizen Participation in Water based on the AAAQ research, targeting state, donor and WASH actors. To aid this, NAYO is creating links between the most affected citizens at a community level who are grappling with water availability, and their councillors, mayors and parliamentarians.

Youth is a driving force too, with young people demanding accountability, participation and non-discrimination in delivery through debates and workshops between youth advocates and state actors.

Another project run by NAYO, the Child Friendly Budgeting Initiative further promotes youth involvement. Water is critical as it adversely affects directly school attendance, health and wellbeing, socialization and their safety (vulnerable to abuse, harassment and violence at water points). Young people use Community Score Cards and Report Score Cards at Ward level to assess service delivery and engage directly.

Tying into the human rights work, NAYO is running an “anti-prepaid water meter resistance campaign” joining hands with labor unions, resident associations; women led organizations, human rights institutions and social movements.

It’s a fight against exclusionary practices in implementation of metering – practices that work against the citizen participation that is necessary for good governance. It also hits on the issues of availability, accessibility and quality. Setting measurable standards to uphold has to be at the heart of any installation.