Cholera: the facts

You will no doubt have heard about the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) [as at 11 Dec 08] cholera has claimed the lives of 783 people, with 16,403 reported cases of infection in nine of Zimbabwe's ten provinces.

Medecins Sans Frontieres warns that 1.4 million people are at risk from cholera in Harare alone.

WHO says the death rate among infected Zimbabweans is 4.5 percent, and as much as 20 to 30 percent in remote areas. The normal fatality rate, where clean water and medication are available, is below one percent. But such basic life-savers are simply not available in today's Zimbabwe.

It has got to such a stage that the government actually had to admit there was a problem and called for assistance, declaring a national emergency. The significance of this is not to be underestimated [despite the fact that today they announced they had 'now arrested cholera' and that 'the cholera cause doesn't exist any more', which is poles apart from what the NGOs are saying].

What is being done?

SEED is joining with a consortium of NGOs (including Goal, Christian Care, Mercy Corps, PSI, World Vision, Oxfam, WHO, Concern Worldwide, ICRS, CAFOD, Integrated Sustainable Livelihoods, DFID), coordinated by UNICEF to address this problem.

As a group the NGOs are:

  • distributing clean water (in trucks)
  • drilling boreholes (both motorised and hand pumped)
  • carrying out education / awareness campaigns
  • distributing water purification tablets
  • talking to the national water and electricity authorities about how existing infrastructure can be revived

What is SEED's part in all this?

The SEED Project is participating in this coordinated response in accordance with our capacity and particular areas of expertise. With your support, we will be focusing on the education / awareness campaigns and distribution of purification tablets in Harare and the surrounding areas, and inputting to the longer term infrastructural response as much as possible.

We bring the following specific sustainable and empowering approaches to the table:

  • involving community members in the education campaign. We train a few community members, who then pass on their learning to the rest of the community.
  • using the opportunity to initiate a holistic campaign about community health issues in general. All the issues are interlinked, so awareness of HIV/AIDS, hygiene, sanitation, diarrhoea, nutrition, dehydration etc will all be beneficial and can be rolled into the 'cholera campaign'.
  • ensuring that the education is relevant to the specific context of the communities in question.
  • maximising opportunities to source clean water in low-tech, sustainable ways, such as rainwater harvesting, natural filters and using the power of the sun to boil water when fuel is unavailable.
  • including the otherwise 'hidden' communities - the domestic workers behind the white walls and security fences of the affluent suburbs - who are earning just enough for one loaf of bread a month, and who have no land on which to grow food

We would also like to provide clean, water-tight, portable containers to communities. The more funds we receive, the more we can provide. In Greendale, we are already helping to provide water for around 20 families a day, and are working to increase this and to further purify the water for drinking.

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