HARARE — The World Health Organization (WHO) says the cholera epidemic is not yet under control, with almost 80,000 total cases and the deaths of 3,800 people. The crisis continues as ACT International members report that already vulnerable communities are at even greater risk with a lack of clean water and some having to resort to eating insects and wild grass.
“In one village we managed to stop the spread since we were there to rehabilitate some boreholes the same week as they had an outbreak of cholera. Clean water saved the community,” explains
Mrs Bongi Baker, director of ACT International member Lutheran Development Service. LDS reports that clean water and good sanitation is basic to stop the transmission of the disease.
Since LDS was started in 1980, one of its main areas of work has been water programmes. Seeing water as a human right, LDS works in the rural areas in the southern parts of the country where a large number of dams and boreholes have been constructed over the years. Yet with the continuing spread of cholera in all districts of the country, water programmes are proving even more critical
to stop the spread of the disease and improve the overall health of communities.
“The dam means a lot to us. The cattle will have close access to water. Now we walk up to 16 kilometres and not all animals make it,” says Justina Magumbo, one of the more than 200 women and men from eight villages working on the Chomunyaka dam. “We have a big garden close to the dam that we can irrigate and get vegetables all year round.”
The Chomunyaka dam was constructed five years ago, but last year’s heavy rains destroyed parts of the dam wall. Now it is important to get it repaired so the water isn’t affected when the rain comes. LDS contributes with knowledge and cement, while the villagers carry stones and pit sand, and do the repairs with the support of local builders.
“Without the dam we will not get any vegetables,” says Emely Samu. “This year we see the difference. Our standard of living has gone down because of the broken dam. Instead of vegetables
and maize we now eat wild grass, ants, locusts and grasshoppers.If we don’t get the dam in order we don’t know how we will manage.”
While the construction of dams is ongoing in several places, lately it has been difficult for people from some communities to come and work. Many have to use their time to look for food, and
others are too hungry to be able to work. As a temporary solution, LDS has transferred the some of the work to food-for-work projects, supporting those who are involved in the construction with maize, cooking oil, beans and seeds.
For some people, it gives them new strength to continue and hope for the future. “Some thought we were joking when we planned to build the dam,” explains Isaiah Masare, vice chairman in the community development committee in Chudhindi. “Now we are all involved to get water and realise the importance of the dam.”
An important aspect of the programmes is the protection of the environment surrounding the dam. Trees are preserved to stop soil erosion and gullies are reclaimed. In the river area that leads up to the dam, women build sand traps with stones to prevent sand and silt from building up in the dam.
The importance of the ACT-supported water programmes is confirmed in another village where a new dam is hoped to be ready in the coming months. “Then we will have food,” hopes Simon Munikwa, chairman of the local dam committee. “The vegetables we grow will give us some income and pay the school fees for our children. We will have a better life and be less vulnerable.”
Eva Berglund , ACT International
25 February 2009
CWS is supporting an ACT International Appeal to meet the food insecurity emergency in Zimbabwe.