Sphera Launches Cutting-Edge Software Designed to Transform Process Safety and Operational Risk Management Performance

CHICAGO, Oct. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sphera, a leading global provider of Integrated Risk Management software, data and consulting services, today announced its Dynamic Risk Pathways solution, the industry's first real–time, process safety management Digital Twin solution.

Sphera's Dynamic Risk Pathways is the industry's next generation Operational Risk Management (ORM) Digital Twin technology for modeling and predicting process safety risk exposure for defined risk scenarios. By using the real–time status information from asset integrity inspections, safety critical equipment, Internet of Things (IoT) sensor data, maintenance and operational activity, and deviations from normal operating conditions, operational teams are provided with a single, shared view of the impact on Major Accident Hazard (MAH) risk scenarios.

Dynamic Risk Pathways turns disparate data into actionable insights. It improves decision–making in evolving conditions while helping organizations move from a reactive position to a predictive and proactive approach. It provides an early–warning system so operators can see how impaired, degraded and missing process safety barriers increase the likelihood of a pathway developing into a near–miss, incident, or MAH situation. With real–time visibility, organizations can improve maintenance prioritization, asset integrity, safety assurance and production uptime.

"Traditionally, it has been difficult for organizations to view the data held in disparate systems to obtain a credible, real–time view of the status of their safeguarding barriers and process safety risk exposure," said Scott Lehmann, Sphera's vice president of product management for ORM. "Dynamic Risk Pathways brings all this data together allowing people across the organization to see where risk might be increasing against specific risk scenarios so they can make better decisions around where to intervene, what to prioritize and where additional risk mitigation is required."

Dynamic Risk Pathways is available as a part of SpheraCloud, a Software as a Service platform built to leverage the power, security and flexibility of Microsoft's Azure.

"Remaining safe, resilient and competitive requires organizations to make investments in innovative, data–driven technology," said Paul Marushka, Sphera's president and CEO. "Dynamic Risk Pathways connects data in a simple, clear way to aid proactive decision–making. Now operators can know that the plant is safe with data–based evidence to support it."

Learn more about Dynamic Risk Pathways at Sphera's Safe Operations Virtual Summit.

About Sphera
Sphera creates a safer, more sustainable and productive world. Our innovative cloud–based risk management platform connects an unprecedented amount of information that leads to deeper insights across an enterprise. We operationalize, scale and optimize Integrated Risk Management strategies to help customers identify, manage, and mitigate risk in the areas of Environment, Health, Safety & Sustainability (EHS&S), Operational Risk Management and Product Stewardship.

For further information, please contact:
Ellen Bremseth, Manager, Marketing Comms, Sphera, ebremseth@sphera.com

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/46f7dd62–5d1b–467c–b06c–e6927e6218a0

The Plight of Domestic Workers in Brazil

On 31 January 2018, the Government of Brazil deposited the formal instrument of ratification with the International Labour Office for ratification of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, 2011 (No. 189) . Accordingly, Brazil became the twenty-fifth member State of the ILO and the fourteenth member State in the Americas region to ratify this Convention. It is estimated that there are about seven million domestic workers in Brazil, six million of them women, and more than in any other country in the world. Moreover, the majority of domestic workers are women, with indigenous peoples and persons of African descent being over-represented in the domestic work sector. But how has the Convention been implemented?. Credit: International Labour Organization (ILO), Geneva

By Waldeli Melleiro and Christoph Heuser
SAO PAULO, Brazil, Oct 21 2020 – The inclusivity of Brazilian society is put to the test as the coronavirus pandemic highlights a labour sector ripe with historical and structural inequality: domestic work.

The first death of COVID-19 in Rio de Janeiro was emblematic of the country’s inequities: a domestic worker who caught the new coronavirus from her employer. Much has since been written about the Brazilian government and its catastrophic inaction during the pandemic.

But the new normal also highlights a sector that has always been present in Brazil but with little public attention. A sector, in which the historical and structural inequality in Brazil is very much represented: domestic work.

With about 6 million female workers, domestic work is the second-largest occupation for women in Brazil. They are mostly black (about 65 per cent) and many are over 45 years old (46.5 per cent).

They start working sometimes as teenagers or even children, and because they lack access to most labour rights and social protection, even after 50 years or more of continuous work they still do not have the right to retirement and well-deserved rest.

They live far from their workplaces, often earn less than the legal minimum wage of around 200 USD per month, and are nonetheless often responsible (45 per cent of them) for the income of their families.

Among the poorest of these workers (less than 1,5 USD/day), 58.1 percent are heads of household, which gives an indication of the extreme poverty in which their families live.

The lack of labour protection

Domestic workers have long been fighting for recognition of the value of their work and for labour rights. The struggle in Brazil goes back to the 1930s, with the founding of the Professional Association of Domestic Employees of Santos.

In 1988 the new Constitution guaranteed paid leave and a 13th month of salary, among others. But domestic workers continued to have fewer rights than those in other professions.

Several further rights were only obtained in 2013 under the former administration of Dilma Rousseff, including the limiting of working hours to eight per day and 44 per week, the right to recognition of overtime, and paid retirement.

Despite these advances, many female workers are still excluded from many of those rights, which are guaranteed only to those who work at least three days a week in the same job. And even where the conditions are met, many employers persistently fail to respect workers’ rights, while monitoring compliance is difficult.

Those who work for the same employer for one or two days a week, known as day workers, remain completely unassisted by the law and social protection.

Furthermore, the degree of informality in domestic work is very high: In 2018, only 27 percent of women workers had a formal contract, if we are adding those paying individually even without having a formal contract, only 39 percent contributed to social security.

Thus, the vast majority of female domestic workers are not entitled to unemployment insurance, sickness benefit and retirement.

The new normal of work during and after the pandemic

Domestic work is one of the occupations most affected by the pandemic.

Many workers are in high-risk age groups; their working conditions expose them to more possibilities of contamination; they use public transportation over long distances; they care for elderly people or children with unavoidable physical proximity; and they often have to work without proper protective masks, gloves, or alcohol gel.

Or even worse: in order to keep their jobs and limit contamination, some stay for days and weeks on end in the homes where they work, away from their families.

As the pandemic took hold, the government allowed employers of domestic workers to suspend the contract for up to two months, with two months of secure employment after the suspension. It also allowed partial employment.

But this only helped the minority of domestic workers with such a contract. Most have precarious positions and many of those, especially day workers, have been dismissed and left without income and vulnerable.

The government also started paying 600 reals (around 109 USD) per month for those in need, for example informal workers, rising to 1,200 reals (218 USD) per month for some cases, for example single mothers. However, many women had difficulty in registering and accessing this aid.

Despite the pandemic, domestic workers are standing firm in the fight for labour rights. In March 2020 Fenatrad (National Federation of Domestic Workers) launched a campaign under the slogan “Take care of those who take care of you, leave your domestic worker at home, with paid wages.”

According to Luiza Batista, president of Fenatrad, there was good coverage in social networks, but in practice there was little adhesion by employers. Fenatrad has been carrying out an intense programme of denunciation and negotiation.

The group has also campaigned against a controversial measure by some state governments, for example Pará, to declare domestic work as an essential service during lockdown, forcing workers to continue working.

This measure was reversed after pressure from Fenatrad to specify what functions within domestic work are essential. The category was refined to include only nannies, careers for the elderly, and those caring for people with special needs and whose employers are keyworkers, e.g. in the health or security sectors.

Still the question remains: if domestic work is essential why it is not valued? It is fundamental work, but it is marginalized and carries the prejudices of a society in which social rights are not within reach for everyone.

The pandemic stresses the importance of domestic work and at the same time showed its precariousness as well as the inequality within the Brazilian society. It is time to reflect on the need for change in paid domestic work, aiming at a fair and inclusive society.

The new normal should recognize and value domestic work, including adequate labour rights as an important step on the long way to a more just society.

Source: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Brazil

 


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Human Trafficking Survivor Harold D’Souza: “The Perpetrators are More Aggressive Than Ever”

By Anna Shen
NEW YORK, Oct 21 2020 – The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic continues: as more people around the world lose their livelihoods, human trafficking is on the rise. Support services for survivors have been shut, and past gains to combat it have been reversed. Funding has dried up.

D’Souza holds his book: Frog in a Well: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

Consider the following: Human trafficking is global — according to the UN, there are now 40 million victims globally. The United States has also been ranked as one of the top three nations of origin for human trafficking, according to a US State Department Report.

Human trafficking survivor Harold D’Souza is no stranger to the perils of modern-day slavery, much of it invisible, right in front of our eyes. In 2003, Harold left his job in India as a marketing manager for a multinational electronics company and was promised a $75,000 job by his trafficker. When he arrived in Ohio, there was no position. What began was an 11-year journey, “pure hell,” as he described it.

He and his wife were forced to work in a restaurant seven days a week for as long as 16 hours a day. His employer took his legal documents and forced him to take a five-figure loan from a bank, keeping the money. For years, they were verbally and physically abused. Harold’s wife was sexually assaulted in front of him. The trafficker hired a hitman to kill Harold. Shockingly, the perpetrator is still free despite evidence against him, as US laws often fall woefully short for prosecution.

The D’Souza’s were one of a few lucky ones to beat the odds; they eventually escaped a harrowing situation and started a new life. It has not been easy to overcome the trauma and scars.

D’Souza committed his life to help victims, founding Eyes Open International, which focuses on combating modern-day slavery. He lectures globally on the topic, was appointed by President Obama to the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, and has continued his service under President Trump.

He spoke to Anna Shen about human slavery during the pandemic, his 10-day trip across parts of the US meeting survivors, a biopic film in the works about his life, and more.

Q. What is the current state of affairs with human trafficking in the US?

A. During the COVID-19 pandemic, trafficking has increased. The perpetrators are more aggressive, and law enforcement has so much else on their hands. Local and state governments are overwhelmed. People are more economically unstable; it is easier to fall victim to labor and sex trafficking than ever. I am shocked that even though I tell Indians not to come to the US, they are willing to pay money to an agent. There are so many people manipulating them, charging anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000. People are desperate and will pay.

Q. What happens to a person once they pay a trafficker?

A. Once they leave their home country, only two out of 10 reach the US – eight die on the way, or are caught and deported. Last year, 311 Indians were deported from the Mexican border. The situation is horrific.

A lot of Indians that were already in America also got deported. That is why I am going to India in a few days — to educate people. America is the destination, but India is the source for traffickers. There is a saying in India, “Going to America is like going to heaven.” Nobody is sharing the actual facts about what happens here, that they will end up as modern day slaves.

Q. You just took a 10-day road trip to meet with the survivors of human trafficking. Where did you go? What did you learn?

A. I drove through Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indianapolis and Chicago. It was eye opening. Victims are more isolated than ever. Due to the pandemic, the organizations that support victims have limited service or none at all. Food pantries and churches are shut down. Because most victims are undocumented, they did not get the stimulus package. Many are suicidal and live in constant fear.

Perpetrators are getting smarter and are one step ahead of law enforcement agencies. Finding new victims is easier: The unemployed are out of the house, looking for any odd jobs or help, so perpetrators driving around can find them more easily and exploit them. Someone unemployed might be standing on a street corner, asking for work or donations and fall prey to a trafficker. There is a statistic that if a girl is out on the street looking for help, within 24 hours she will be picked up and become a victim of sex trafficking.

Q. Your perpetrator never came to justice. What can be done to prevent that in the future?

A. Laws have to be changed, with stiffer penalties. There are very few laws to protect the victims, and very few successful laws to prosecute perpetrators, who also know how to successfully fight their cases. The focus has always been on victims, but that needs to change: When you prosecute one perpetrator you save 100 victims.

Media plays a very big role, as coverage will intimidate perpetrators, especially because they are very affluent and high status. They are intimidated by negative press coverage. Also, victims need to speak out, but this requires tremendous courage.

Q. There is so much focus on the police these days. How should they be trained to help?

A. Right now, law enforcement is overwhelmed with so many issues. However, they need to be trained to recognize trafficking in front of them. At the moment, the governor of Ohio is training police officers to recognize it happening right under their eyes. For example, recently an officer stopped someone for speeding and saw five people in the car. He questioned them where they were going. Something didn’t sound right. It turned out that one passenger in the car was a sex trafficking victim. The police rescued her.

This kind of training needs to be global, and it has to come from the top leadership. Police also need to be “trauma informed,” which means recognizing when they are speaking to a victim who may be in the car with their perpetrator, and may speak in a certain way to the police officer.

Q. Focusing on the human side, can you tell me what you think others should know but never think about?

A. There is so much attention on getting victims free, but going a step further, who is the person underneath all of this? Nobody asks them what their dreams are. Every individual on this planet has dreams, talents. No NGO, counselor or law enforcement agency asks about their dreams – this person once wanted to be a doctor, or an actor. Once society knows they are a victim or survivor, they are stigmatized. So many people won’t say a word about what happened because they are afraid that they won’t move ahead or be able to live a normal life.

I still cry at night and feel I failed and as a grown man. I still ask myself, “What did I do to get in that place?” I still struggle and go to counseling. Trauma has no expiration date. But with God’s blessing, I am still here to tell the story. My focus is on prevention, education, protection and the empowerment of community members, especially vulnerable populations globally.

I know no one can stop me. I will help as many victims to become survivors and thrive as much as possible and no perpetrator will stand in my way. I thank God every day.

This is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalisation of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

 


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Food Security Bursts Onto the Global Agenda

October 2020 will be recalled as one of the most important moments in raising awareness about world food security, whether in the global debate or in the search for possible concrete solutions

Women farmers irrigate crops of onions and other vegetables. They participate in a special programme to improve Senegal’s food security. Credit: FAO

By Mario Lubetkin
ROME, Oct 21 2020 – The month of October 2020 will be recalled as one of the most important moments in raising awareness about world food security, whether in the global debate or in the search for possible concrete solutions.

On October 9, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the World Food Programme (WFP), and a few days later, on 16 October, during FAO’s World Food Day, prominent world personalities and leaders, including Pope Francis, called for effective and sustainable solutions to hunger problems.

The world produces enough food for everyone, so it is unacceptable that 690 million people are undernourished, 2000 million do not have regular access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food, and 3000 million cannot afford a healthy diet
Maximo Torero, FAO’s Chief Economist

Meanwhile, in parallel, leading experts released a series of studies that indicate ways to move towards the resolution of this fundamental issue for the future of humanity.

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, acknowledged that these declarations make “the eye of the international community turn to millions of people who suffer from food insecurity or who are at risk of suffering from it.”

According to QU, what is needed now is “intelligent and systematic action” that provides “food to those who need it and improves what they already have”, taking measures to “prevent crops from rotting in the fields due to lack of efficient supplies”, promoting the use “of digital tools and artificial intelligence in order to predict dangers to production, automatically activate harvest insurance and reduce climate risk.” 

In addition, we should act to “save biodiversity from continuous erosion”, turn “cities into the farms of tomorrow” and governments should implement policies to make healthy diets more accessible.

David Beasley, WFP Executive Director, reflected on the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to the Organization and stressed that it “has focused global attention on the hungry and the consequences of conflict.”

Meanwhile, he added, “the climate shock and economic pressures have further aggravated the situation”, and currently “the global pandemic and its impact on economies and communities is pushing millions of people to the brink of starvation.”

According to a recent FAO report, 690 million people (about 8.9 percent of the world’s population) suffer from hunger and the effects of COVID-19 may increase this figure by 130 million people before the end of 2020.

Pope Francis recalled that “it is not enough to produce food, but it is also important to ensure that food systems are sustainable and provide healthy and affordable diets for all”, seeking “innovative solutions that can transform the way we produce food for the well-being of our communities and our planet, strengthening recovery capacity and long-term sustainability.”

The Catholic pontiff described hunger “not only as a tragedy but a shame,” calling for concrete policies and actions.

He suggested that “a brave decision would be to establish, with the money used for arms and other military expenses, a world fund to be able to definitively defeat hunger and help the development of the poorest countries” and, in this way, avoid “many wars and the emigration of so many of our brothers and their families who are forced to abandon their homes and countries in search of a more dignified life.”

In October, a group of renowned international organizations and think tanks, including FAO, called on donor countries to double investments to eradicate hunger by 2030. In 2015, the international community at the United Nations headquarters in New York set 2030 as the year in which to reach the global goal of eliminating hunger and poverty, as well as to achieve other major Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

According to the study, donors must spend an additional $ 14 billion on average a year by 2030, which is equivalent to doubling current spending for food security and nutrition.

According to FAO’s Chief Economist, Maximo Torero, “the world produces enough food for everyone, so it is unacceptable that 690 million people are undernourished, 2000 million do not have regular access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food, and 3000 million cannot afford a healthy diet.”

If the contributions of the richest countries are doubled as requested, “with technology, innovation, education, social protection and trade facilitation” hunger can be overcome within the deadlines set by the international community, said the expert.

David Laborde, a scholar at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), argued that in addition to the contribution of donor countries, the poorest countries must increase spending from their own budgets to achieve the SDGs “and double the income of 545 million of small-scale farmers and limit agricultural emissions in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement.”

In order to advance on these reflections that allow more concrete solutions, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, proposed the holding of a Summit on food systems, whose preparatory meeting will be held in Rome before the boreal summer of 2021, and the final meeting of Heads of State and Government or their high representatives will take place in September of next year in New York.

According to Queen Letizia of Spain, it is necessary to reconsider “current food production models from the perspective of social, economic and environmental sustainability.” In her opinion, it is also a “public health priority linked to the degradation of the environment in its broadest sense, to the loss of agro-biological diversity, to food waste and to the duty to ensure decent livelihoods for the workers in the food system,” recalling the growth trends of malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity.

In the search for ways to build synergies between countries, in order to face the effects of COVID-19 on food security and its possible future solutions, the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, recalled the initiative that his country presented to the FAO.

It is a proposal aimed at creating a coalition of nations on food, which has already been welcomed by about 40 countries from all regions, to exchange experiences of what is happening, identify where the areas of greatest risk are, explore the best ways to face these effects and prepare for the post-COVID-19 phase in this sector.

“An adequate and balanced diet must be within the reach of everyone, together with the old connection with culture, tradition and land,” fighting “the hateful action of food waste”, calling on the international community to assume protection” of the precious goods that Earth offers us” to safeguard it “for future generations.”

PhytoSciences Ghana Appoints Chief Operating Officer to Better Serve West Africa’s Cannabis Industry

ACCRA, Ghana, Oct. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Phytosciences Ghana Consultants Limited, a cannabis consulting firm, has announced the appointment of Eric Okyere Darko as the new Chief Operating Officer.

Eric Okyere Darko is a dynamic and experienced leader that has served in increasingly senior roles for decades in international law and human rights, becoming a recognized international authority with license to practice law in both Ghana and the United States.

Commenting on the appointment, Dr. Pritesh Kumar, the Managing Director of Phytosciences GmBH said, "At Phytosciences, our primary mission is to establish standards within the cannabis testing sector as a global leader in medicinal cannabis product development and manufacturing, validated cannabis laboratory testing practices, and cannabis quality control to ensure the safety of the medicine. As Phytosciences continues its expansion into Ghana, Eric's exceptional ability to lead teams as well as his incomparable institutional knowledge make him absolutely vital for Phytosciences continued growth and innovation in Ghana. This is an important strength that he will leverage as COO to help pave way for a safely regulated market."

Eric Okyere Darko, commenting on his new appointment said, "I am honored and excited to begin this new chapter at Phytosciences Ghana and I'm thrilled to work with an amazing team to ensure we continue to deliver on our mission of creating a market where cannabis–derived medicines are available and safe for human consumption. I will draw upon the amazing talents of our team to advance our prowess in ensuring that we consistently provide excellent medical cannabis services in our next era of growth.”

Eric Okyere Darko is the founding partner of Darko Law Firm in Ghana and in USA. Okyere Darko had his Bachelor's degree at the University of Ghana and a Barrister–at–Law Degree from the Ghana School of Law. He then relocated to the United States where he earned a master's degree in Library and Information Science at the Long Island University in New York and a master's degree in Law and Letters (LL.M) at Fordham University School of Law specializing in international business and trade law.

Okyere Darko has assisted the International Center for Transnational Justice in publishing the Ghana Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. He served on an international human rights committee in New York and represented clients in immigration hearings in front of the United States Supreme Court.

Okyere Darko is a member of the New York State Bar Association; New York County Bar Association; American Bar Association; American Immigration Lawyers Association; New York County Lawyers Association; Association of Ghanaian Lawyers in America and Ghana Bar Association.

About Phytosciences Ghana
Phytosciences Ghana Solutions limited is a branch of PhytoSciences Consultants GmBH, a global consulting firm with a vast resource base of proprietary knowledge, methodologies, and experience. They provide clients access to an international network of scientists and subject matter experts. PhytoSciences Ghana also offers access to its global knowledge management system, a proprietary network that provides start–up cannabis companies and regulators strategic support in developing, strategizing, and executing commercial and policy objectives. PhytoSciences Ghana is helping develop a viable framework for legislative change and offers tailored solutions to local companies so they can strategically maneuver the market as it emerges.

To learn more about PhytoSciences Ghana, visit the website at pghsolutions.com, office@pghsolutions.com.

PR Contact
Kathleen Gonzales
kathleen@elevated–pr.com
Elevated Public Relations

New Style of Remote Lesson, Experience-based Event “Pinch to Move! Three-dimensional Vision in Air” in Action

MIE, Japan, Oct. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — What can we expect beyond online lesson under the COVID–19? This event presents new style of remote tuition, eye–opening next generation experience–based lesson utilizing participant's "body movement" which wouldn't be possible for online lesson. The lesson employs mixed reality (MR) technology.

The contents of the lesson are "Let's see invisible magnetic field." Feel Physics sends lesson material to a high school in advance and conducts the lesson from its office located in another prefecture using Zoom. 19 high school students participate in the lesson and experience controlling a magnet by fingers and observing changing magnetic field with walking around with MR goggles. The company's teacher gives educational guidance with monitoring students' view displayed on MR headset through Zoom.

Voices of participating students

"I was excited wearing the MR headset and really enjoyed the lesson as even I was able to learn." (1st grade student)

"Although invisible magnetic field is hard to understand, the lesson visualized it clearly to bring better understanding." (2nd grade student)

"It's intuitive and fun lesson as it was new experience to control virtual object in space." (1st grade student)

"I was happy to experience things that we have talked as fantastic story." (1st grade student)

Voice of the high school teacher

"Upon receipt of the equipment, students of STEM club started to play with it avidly. To my surprise, even students not joining any club activities came in. I rarely had to support them. A device making us feel future like the MR headset may have power to ignite students' hearts. I would like to have more students experience this lesson." (Teacher with the high school for 7 years)

Please be free to contact us for further information of "future learning lesson" at our official website to explore and experience the cutting–edge MR technology.

About Feel Physics:

A start–up company mainly developing experience–oriented learning using MR goggle technology to blow a new wind towards educational business.

tatsuro.ueda@feel–physics.jp

https://feel–physics.jp

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/ac54badf–c1fa–46a9–b1fd–c074942f37be

A video accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/19d1139c–ff2c–467c–87d3–9ba6bcdf8f24

Bulawayo Water Crisis: When the Taps Run Dry and the City Runs out of Ideas

Water tanks installed in homes in a Bulawayo suburb. The city has been facing a decades long water crisis. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

Water tanks installed in homes in a Bulawayo suburb. The city has been facing a decades long water crisis. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Oct 21 2020 – Dotted across the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo, the water tanks installed in private residences is evidence that years of a water crisis, that has seen some suburbs here going for months without running water, has not spared anyone. The large plastic drums, locally called Jojo tanks after the company that manufacturers them, and which have a storage range of up to 10,000 litres, have assumed a class status of sorts in Bulawayo.

Desperate residents, like Philemon Hadebe, who can afford to have responded to the water crises by installing the giant tanks in their residences.

Such tanks are traditionally used to harvest rain water and also store groundwater, but in COVID—19’s new normal, everything has been upended.

“This is about survival,” Hadebe told IPS.

“You cannot go for weeks without water in a house where you have kids that’s why I bought this thing,” he said pointing to the 2,500 litre water tank in his yard.

“I let the water run whenever it is made available (in the taps) and it has helped a lot to stock up for when the taps run dry for days and even weeks,” he said.

Is he is not concerned about the water bill?

“You have no time to worry about the water bill. These are desperate times,” Hadebe said. It’s despite the fact that the local municipality has lamented the failure of residents to settle their bills, which the council says has crippled service delivery.

Those residents who cannot afford bulk storage use any container available, including 2-litre plastic containers. But when these  run out, they turn to unprotected water sources, a practice city health officials say has resulted in a spike of waterborne diseases such as typhoid and dysentery.

Last week, the city’s health department reported an increase in diarrhoea cases, with residents saying the municipality has done little to solve the decades old water crisis.

The local authority blames water shortages on a range of factors that include low levels in supply dams, breakdown of infrastructure installed before the country’s independence in 1980 and also constant power outages said to cripple pumping water from dams.

“The water crisis is man made,” said Emmanuel Ndlovu, coordinator of the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BUPRA).

“Bulawayo has always faced a perennial water problem which has been met with a tepid preparedness by council. Every year the city is plunged into a crisis. The last such crisis was in 2007 but the current one has been the worst ever,” Ndlovu told IPS.

While some residents are installing water tanks, this comes at a steep cost.

Prices of water tanks range from about $1,000 for a 10,000 litre tank to $280 for 2,500 litres and $460 for 5,000 litres.

Business has been brisk for the manufacturers, but this has come at a huge cost for the city’s efforts to save the little water left in supply dams.

Early this month, the city’s town clerk Christopher Dube highlighted the extent of the water crisis, telling local media that the city had run out ideas.

“We no longer have water in the city while consumption has increased. Residents have also resorted to buying Jojo tanks (bulk water containers) and whenever we shut supplies we do so because our reservoirs would have run dry,” Dube said.

The municipality says stocking water by residents has led to a citywide increase of water consumption, and fines imposed on excessive water used have not deterred residents such as Hadebe.

Other residents have resorted to sinking boreholes in their homes, and selling the water. But concerns have previously been raised by municipality about the haphazard and unregulated groundwater.

As part of long-term efforts to address the water crisis, and which might render domestic bowsers redundant, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is supporting the city with a $33 million grant under the Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP).

According to the AfDB, the grant will “rehabilitate and upgrade water production treatment facilities, water distribution, sewer drainage networks and wastewater treatment disposal facilities in the southwestern part of the city”.

City mayor Solomon Mguni told IPS he could not discuss the issue, but in a council report last month he blamed the crisis on “vandalism of infrastructure and power outages which interrupt pumping”.

For now, residents with the financial clout are creating their own domestic solutions albeit at a cost for the long term sustainability of already strained water sources.

Pressure groups however insist the city could have done better.

“Despite the fact that water account is a the cash cow for the Bulawayo City Council, there is less investment in water resources,” Ndlovu said.

Meanwhile, the country’s meteorological services department has forecast above normal rains this season, which could provide not only relief to the parched city, but could also be bad news to Jojo tank retailers.

 


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