The escalating water crises in Bulawayo is negatively affecting children and leading to the deprivation of their rights.
A snap survey by this reporter across various suburbs in Bulawayo painted a grim picture on how young girls and boys are suffering.
In Magwegwe, a High-Density Suburb in Bulawayo, 12- year old boy Sibusiso Ngwenya (not his real name) laments the physical strain that he suffers in his attempt to search for water that has not run out of their taps for the past month.
“It has been a long while since we had water run out of our taps, at first we used to fetch water from a nearby open water source but this is risky to my health and that of my ailing grandmother as it exposes us to water borne diseases,’’ Ngwenya said.
“Nowadays we fetch water at White City Stadium which is our closest water source, this means I have to spend a lot of hours there queueing for water and walk back home in the dark while exposed to dangers of the night.”
Busani Ndlovu in Pumula-South suburb that has also been facing the same challenge of water scarcity, is worried about the appalling abuse his 14 year – young sister goes through in order to secure 20 liters of water from a community borehole that is about 2 kilometers away from their home.
Ngwenya and Ndlovu’s stories are a sad reality that children living in urban areas have had to face on a daily basis in search of water in Bulawayo and they are deprived of their rights in a manner that may have long term effects.
Their plight is a manifestation of climate change effects, particularly, the scarcity of water and is negatively impacting on rights of children living in urban areas as they endure the physical strain of carrying heavy containers of water, traverse long distances in search of water while exposing them to diseases like Cholera and other water borne diseases.
A study by Giulia Welge 2019, shows that climate change effects impact children’s lives and health. Indirectly climate change may affect children’s rights, such as the right to education. For instance, if a child does not have water to bath, he or she has to wake up early in the morning to fetch water, their levels of concentration at school are most likely to be low. At times their chances of consistently attending school are low as they spend time queueing for water.
Mgcini Moyo a concerned adult from the high- density suburb of Magwegwe says the scarcity of water has hugely affected children as they spend much of their time looking for water than playing and doing their school work.
“During my childhood days I would knock off from school and come back home to play a bit before I go back home to do my homework as opposed to the situation that our children find themselves in , they knock off from school to comeback home and look for water as a result there is no time for playing, focusing on their school work and so on.’’, remarked Mgcini Moyo.
The right to play, the right to education, the right to health and the right to protection amongst many others have been violated because of water scarcity. Playing and watching cartoons are now minimal endeavors as children spend most of their playing time looking for the precious liquid.
Precious Ndlovu, a 14 year old girl from Pumula South stated how, water scarcity has negatively affected her as she spends most of the time at the community borehole where she is bullied and at times waits for hours as older boys come and fetch water ahead of her, taking advantage of the fact that she is a young girl who cannot stand for herself. At times others come to the borehole without wearing their masks and do not practice social distancing thus exposing her and others to COVID-19.
“The scarcity of water affects us in so many ways, we are always being bullied at community boreholes, most times I have to wait for hours before I fetch water as older boys take advantage of the fact that I’m younger and a girl,” she said
Nkosinolwazi Moyo, a teacher at a local school lamented how the scarcity of water is affecting learning and his work performance.
“We find it hard to see all of our students as some would be absent fetching water. This is a disturbing factor in planning and children cannot reach their full potential if they are busy looking for water than learning. Water scarcity has also affected me as a teacher in various ways in that I will be concentrating on my discomfort rather than teaching. “
Shaun Nyemba, the outgoing junior Minister for State in Bulawayo and also a child rights’ activist, weighed in saying the climate change induced water shortages are greatly affecting children.
“Water scarcity affects the food and nutrition that children access. Moreover, with shortage of water in urban areas, hygiene and sanitation is also reduced further compromising children’s rights to health,” Nyemba noted.
“These are children that are supposed to be developing their faculties and also enjoying playing, but they are now being used to search for water. It can even expose the girl child who is vulnerable to issues of sexual abuse and harassment.”
Such is the plight of children living in Bulawayo. It is imperative that city fathers develop strategies to adapt to the problem of the scarcity of water like educating the public on how to manage water leakages, availing of water conservation information and adopting alternative water sources.