By Careen Mwakitalu
“Our septic tank has been full for two years now, and we have been putting up with the stench and overflow from the toilet for that long,” says Grace Nemapare, who lives with her family of six in Gaza in Chipinge.
Gaza is one of the oldest settlements in Chipinge town, south east of Zimbabwe. The middle-to-low income suburb has grown tremendously as urbanisation has resulted in the population in this town ballooning.
The devastation to infrastructure caused by Cyclone Idai therefore increased the pressure on already overburdened social amenities such as water and sanitation services.
Septic tanks in particular had long filled up and community members have been forced to empty them by hand using buckets or construct makeshift pit toilets, both alternatives that pose health and safety hazards.
Through the Post Cyclone Idai Emergency Recovery and Resilience Project (PCIREP), funded by African Development Bank, UNOPS Zimbabwe is desludging septic tanks for 4,000 households in Gaza.
To date, UNOPS has desludged septic tanks for 700 households in Gaza. Gloria Mulambo, one of the community workers on the project narrates what this process involves; “We are provided with equipment to stir the sludge so that it is easier for the pump to suck it out. Because running water is only available sometimes once a week, most of the waste in the septic tanks was solidifying.”
Gloria is one of three women recruited to work on this project in roles that are normally reserved for men.
As the implementer, UNOPS ensures that all contractors comply with Health, Safety, Social and Environmental safeguards. A Gender Action Plan is in place to ensure the contractors provide equal opportunities for men and women.
“Going around the households that we are assisting, I realise that a lot of them are female-headed. It began to make sense to me then why UNOPS insists that we also provide income opportunities to women as well,” explains the Contractor, President Chipfutsa.
“We have seen that women can easily do the jobs that we thought were best for men, and this standard for employing at least 50% women is one that we will continue to practise for our other projects”.
The desludging of septic tanks in these households will restore proper functioning of wastewater treatment systems and supply lines in Gaza.
Under the same project, PCIREP, UNOPS will also install new water supply and reticulation systems and rehabilitate treatment filtration and conveyance systems. This will further strengthen the resilience of these Cyclone affected communities.
The designs for the new infrastructure are undergoing rigorous design review to ensure that they will withstand climatic shocks that are characteristic of Chipinge district.
“We are truly grateful for this intervention,” remarks Grace. “We could never have been able to pay for the desludging services. Now we can have clean, sanitary toilets”, she says lifting her 16-month baby into her arms.