Charities address Zimbabwe cholera crisis

By agency reporter
December 4, 2008

Christian Aid partner organisations in Zimbabwe are responding to the cholera outbreak which is now affecting the entire country.

According to the World Health organisation more than 12,000 cases have been reported and 565 people have died.

In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, the Dabane Trust, a Christian Aid partner which specialises in drought recovery programmes, is providing an emergency response in both the city and in the outlying rural areas.

"The sewage system has just completely broken down," says Stephen Hussey, the programme coordinator for Dabane Trust. "There are pools of sewage in town. In addition to the clear danger of cholera and other water-borne disease, it just smells foul; it is disgusting."

Dabane donated 2,000 litres of fuel to the city council of Bulawayo so its sanitation teams could go out to the suburbs. It has also cleaned four large water containers which are on standby for distribution of clean water.

Dabane also responded quickly to the anthrax outbreak in Lupane district north of Bulawayo.

"We provided a tractor and trailer to get the vaccination teams out to the affected area quickly. At the same time we took out 18,000 puritification tablets," says Mr Hussey.

Dabane also has a pilot scheme to build sand water filters for some 30 homes in the rural areas. It is training local builders to make these filters which operate through the medium of sand.

"The problems of the sanitation services here are huge; there are no chemicals to treat the water at source" says Mr Hussey. "But in the short-term we need many more purification tablets. Yesterday the water coming out of the tap was like orange juice. It is ludicrous that we are reduced to buying bottled water in Botswana."

Dumisani Nkomo of Habakkuk Trust, another Christian Aid partner in Bulawayo, says that collapse of the sewage system has compounded the dire heath risks posed by weeks of uncollected rubbish.

"There is uncollected rubbish all over the place and now we have untreated sewage in the street; the health risks are huge.

"We are working with service providers to facilitate the provision of water. More importantly, we are organising meetings with our community leaders and the city council so that it knows exactly what the situation is."

Partner organisations in the capital Harare are also responding. Christian Care is working with the Unicef initiative to distribute purification tablets.

Sister Margaret McAllen of the Mashambanzou Care Trust for persons living with HIV says the situation is critical.

"Life is very difficult but everyone is doing their best to contain the situation. We are lucky that it is still not raining very much. It will get very much more serious once the heavy rains settle in."

Christian Aid is also now coordinating some small scale distribution of oral rehydration salts from UNICEF to other development agencies and charities.

You can help children in Zimbawe through UNICEF here

You can help Christian Aid partners in Zimbabwe through Present Aid here

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