Tag Archives: Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: did the United Nations ignore the 2008 cholera outbreak to please Harare?

A U.N. official claims his warnings of a catastrophic cholera outbreak were stifled by a U.N. bureaucracy intent on keeping good relations with Zimbabwe’s dictator, Robert Mugabe.

Georges Tadonki, the former head of the Zimbabwe branch of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was fired at the height of the cholera crisis in early January 2009 — in part, he says, because of the warnings he raised. He has appealed his termination, and his case opened before a U.N. dispute tribunal in Nairobi, Kenya, on 23 February 2010. International lawyer Robert Amsterdam, famous for defending the Russian political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is Mr. Tadonki’s pro-bono legal counsel.

Between August 2008 and July 2009, about 98,600 people contracted cholera and more than 4,000 died. In April 2008, months before the initial outbreak exploded into a full-blown epidemic, Tadonki says he warned his superiors of the severe risk. But U.N. country director Agostinho Zacarias stifled that warning, Tadonki claims.

Tadonki claims that Zacarias forced him to significantly lower the initial prediction of cholera cases from 30,000 to 2,000 in the UN funding appeal launched in November 2008. “Because the government did not accept that there was cholera, the United Nations was forced to align with that position.” Both a high-level official from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who worked on the humanitarian response and Ed Schenkenberg van Mierop of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), confirmed that Tadonki had warned of a catastrophic outbreak.

Although some facts are in dispute, Tadonki’s story highlights the perils of U.N. engagement in authoritarian states such as Zimbabwe.

In response to the claim that the figures in the November 2008 UN appeal document had been manipulated, OCHA’s Deputy Spokesman told Inner City Press that “the prediction of 2,000 was realistic when it was made”, comparing it to the previous cholera outbreak in 2002, when 3,125 people were infected and 192 died.

Some U.N. officials contested Tadonki’s allegations, including a former U.N. agency head who told Foreign Policy that “the actual size of the cholera outbreak was larger than anyone (including Tadonki) had forecasted.” And some claimed Tadonki’s clash with Zacarias was due to poor performance, which is cited in U.N. internal reports as the reason for his firing, not his efforts to sound the alarm.

There are also conflicting reports about the response of the World Health Organization (WHO), which lead the health response. WHO representative in Harare, Custodia Mandlhate, told Foreign Policy that she, Zacarias, and the country head of UNICEF had finally “decided to go and see the minister of health … and convinced him to declare cholera an emergency.”

Schenkenberg, however, said that WHO “didn’t have its first meeting [to begin coordinating operations] until the first week of December” — after the government had already declared the cholera emergency. Nor had Zacarias pushed the WHO to do so, according to Schenkenberg.

Commenting on the Tadonki case, Wall Street Journal columnist Marian L. Tupy reminds us that “the crisis started when the Mugabe government nationalized Zimbabwe’s water supply in 2005 but soon ran out of money to maintain the infrastructure and treat the water […]. In 2008 the government shut down the water supply altogether, reducing the people in the urban areas to scavenge for water in ponds and sewers. Since the Zimbabwean health-care system collapsed along with the rest of the economy, the U.N. effectively became responsible for providing the necessary aid to tackle the emerging health crisis”.

Source: Elizabeth Dickinson, Foreign Policy, 22 Feb 2010 ; Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press, 25 Feb 2010 ; Marian L. Tupy, Wall Street Journal, 22 Feb 2010

Zimbabwe – Elephant Pump prevents water contamination

Zimbabwe – In 1999, when Ian Thorpe was teaching English in rural Zimbabwe, two pupils at his primary school died of dysentery after drinking water from a local well into which a snake had fallen and decomposed. The shocking incident drove Thorpe – with two former teacher colleagues, Tendai Mawunga and Amos Chiungo – to develop an inexpensive (US$400) contamination-proof pump.

Thorpe’s team adapted an ancient Chinese technology that used bamboo for pipes and sisal rope and discs of leather to bring buckets of water from hand-dug wells. The “Elephant Pump” has a concrete casing protecting water from contamination. It is simple enough for a five-year-old to use.

Winning a Development Marketplace grant of US$120,000 in 2006 allowed Thorp’s PumpAid – a U.K.-based international charity – to expand its nascent program beyond a few schools and villages and install 1,000 pumps that benefited 250,000 Zimbabweans.

Development Marketplace funds were also used to create the Elephant Toilet, an innovative, low-cost, low-maintenance approach to sanitation.

Below are links to “Elephant Pump” and “Elephant Toilet” videos:

Zimbabwe – Chitungwiza’s ‘bucket system’

Jan 3, 2010

JAMES Muringani (23) of Chitungwiza’s Zengeza 4 area wakes up every morning with a bucketful of human waste for offloading at a communal blair toilet.

The human waste would have accumulated in the bucket over the night as the bucket is used by family members as their “toilet.”

This has been the norm for James as he has been conducting the chore every morning for the past five years. The Zengeza 4 section, popularly known as Pagomba, is diagonally opposite Chitungwiza Council’s head offices and has never had a sewer system since establishment in 2005.

This has prompted residents to use unorthodox means to relieve themselves, especially during the night. The “bucket system” which is now used by James’ family is common in the area, with some people resorting to using the bush to relieve themselves.

In addition, the area has never received any running water, resulting in residents depending on shallow wells for water. This is the water they drink and use for both cooking and laundry.

While residents elsewhere in Chitungwiza get into the New Year with plans to improve their yards, those from Zengeza 4 would be thinking about digging deep wells to save themselves from water problems. It seems a health time bomb is simmering at the surface and is waiting to explode in Zengeza.

Residents live in perpetual fear of contracting diseases such as cholera. They have no choice, but to stay put at their houses that have no sewer and running water because “this is where our only homes are.”

Like other residents, James has lost hope of living a normal life, as he is now accustomed to the situation in Zengeza.
“Since the time this area was built, we have not received water,” said James. “We do not even have any piping system nor sewer system.  “Promises by council to improve our way of living have for years been mere rhetoric.”

Shallow wells are conspicuous in front of a number of houses in the area. There are a number of blair toilets dotted in front of most houses and what is worrisome is that the toilets are constructed near the shallow wells. It is feared some underground water from the toilets will seep into the wells.

Other residents have resorted to using nightclubs at a nearby shopping centre for ablution facilities. Chakanetsa Panganai, from the same area, said he uses one of his bedrooms as a bathroom. 

“After putting water in a bucket, I then go ahead and bath in one of the rooms and then mop up the floor afterwards.”  But the residents seem unperturbed as they do their day-to-day business as if everything is normal.

Children are equally vulnerable to health diseases that are associated with consumption of unclean water. Those who fear contracting diseases, fetch drinking water from taps at the council head offices.

Even the city authorities do not dissuade the residents from fetching water from the council premises presumably because they know they are the ones to blame for the water problems.

“We are living by the grace of God,” said Panganai. So united are the residents that they share the use of the wells among themselves. “No hard feelings,” said Panganai. “We have to share, after all we are in the same predicament.” 

It is difficult for one to imagine that the suburb faces such a problem judging by the posh houses in the area. The towering houses give the impression that all is well. Ironically, the Chitungwiza Municipality has been billing the residents of the area despite the fact that there is no running water.

One of the residents, whose water bill recently topped more than US$150 said it was a mockery for council to bill them for water that they are not supplying. “We have been receiving bills since we started living in this area,” said the resident, who refused to be named.

But what really went wrong from the time the suburb as established? Chitungwiza Municipality unveiled the housing stands for the suburb in 2003 and sold them to home seekers who were on the housing waiting list. Council promised to develop the stands to pave way for the home seekers to construct their houses.

The council entered into an agreement with a construction company, FORIT, to develop the stands, but ended up failing to pay the required amount of money for the completion of the job. Only some roads covered with gravel were created, while the contractor moved off site before lining sewer and water pipes.

The impatient residents, seeing that their concerns were not being addressed, went ahead and constructed their houses. Most of the home seekers started building structures in 2004, while waiting for council to provide sanitation facilities.

But five years on, the local authority is still to provide sanitation facilities. Some of the residents with financial means have since started drawing water from surrounding areas.

When contacted for comment, Chitungwiza spokesperson Mr Zeph Mandirahwe referred all the questions to the town clerk, Mr Godfrey Tanyanyiwa, who was not available to comment by the time of going to print. But an official in the council health department who refused to be named said: “Council made a very big mistake by creating these neighbourhoods where there are no proper sanitation facilities.”

Zengeza 4 is not the only residential area in Chitungwiza that has no water supplies. Unit O in Seke has a perennial problem for lack of water supplies and was apparently the epicentre of the cholera outbreak that ravaged the country.

Source – http://www1.sundaymail.co.zw/inside.aspx?sectid=4406&cat=17

Zimbabwe – Scaling up the Community Health Club Model

Click on title to view/download:

Zimbabwe – Scaling up the Community Health Club Model, 2009. (pdf, 645KB)

Juliet Waterkeyn & Andrew Muringaniza. Africa AHEAD Association.

It is clear that CHCs are not only a popular strategy but that they do in fact produce high levels of hygiene behaviour change. Zimbabwe is not the only country to report good case studies of the CHC approach. In West Africa, Community Health Clubs are being used to rebuild society after a devastating civil war. In Guinea Bissau CHCs in remote rural villages complement an intervention to improve infant mortality, and in Uganda, CHCs have been used to improve home hygiene and create a demand for sanitation in the war toen IDP camps of the north. Whilst in these examples the CHC approach is being done through NGOs on a fairly small scale, in Rwanda the Ministry of Health is planning to introduce health clubs into everyone of the 14,000 villages in the country. In Asia, Vietnam leads the way with training through the MoH which aims to start CHCs in all 25,000 villages. Countries where this can be scaled up may well be able to meet the MDG
targets, given the power of CHC to stimulate demand led safe sanitation.

Zimbabwe – Community Health Clubs in Urban Areas

Click on title to view/download:

Zimbabwe – Community Health Clubs in Urban Areas, 2009. (pdf, 446KB)

Juliet Waterkeyn & Regis Matimati. Africa AHEAD Association.

Most countries in Africa will fall short of meeting the MDG targets for the provision of water and sanitation due to lack of financial and institutional capacity (WSP-Africa, 2006). Although safe sanitation has been found to be the most effective single intervention in reducing diarrhoea (Esrey, et al.1991), this does not necessarily mean the building of latrines, as these can become a fly breeding ground if they are not sealed properly, and further compound the spread of diarrhoea. The faecal-oral route can be broken much more easily and a lot more cost-effectively through faecal burial and hand washing with soap (Curtis & Cairncross, 2003). After more than a decade of pilot projects in many countries in Africa the Community Health Club (CHC) Approach can reasonably predict behaviour change, and ensure zero open defecation and handwashing with soap. By creating a strong demand for safe sanitation and a ‘Culture of Health’ that insures good hygiene (Waterkeyn & Cairncross, 2005) Community Health Clubs can become a potent mobilisation strategy in emergencies not only in rural areas but, as this case study shows, in urban areas as well. During the cholera outbreak that affected 12,700 people and claimed 420 lives in Zimbabwe, the a high density suburb of Sakubva, in Mutare, only had 4 cases and no deaths. This has been attributed to an environmental clean-up and improved the hygiene behaviour due to the efforts of 5,400 members in 36 Community Health Clubs.

Zimbabwe: building user-friendly toilets for the disabled

THE Disablement Association of Zimbabwe (DAZ) has started building user-friendly Blair Toilets for people with disabilities. It also plans to improve access to ablution facilities in Bulawayo after a realisation that the authorities were taking too long to act. Insiza and Matobo districts in Matabeleland South have been chosen for the programme which is supported by World Vision.

Speaking at the recent launch of the association, DAZ executive director David Zulu said the programme was part of efforts to address health concerns of people with disabilities. He said they tended to be left out of national programmes yet they were equally affected by challenges such as outbreaks of diseases emanating from poor sanitation.

“In the urban centre of Bulawayo we are involved in assessing the accessibility if public ablution facilities on how the current structures can be modified so that people with disabilities have better access to them,” Zulu said.

However, WVZ humanitarian emergency affairs director, Daniel Muchena said the programme had been affected by the negative attitude towards people with disabilities inherent in society. “For example under Protracted Relief Programme 1, in Matobo district some community members are not willing to assist people with disabilities in constructing user friendly Blair toilets and engage in other productive activities.

DAZ was registered as a trust in 2006 after it was formed by trustees Ronald Ncube, Edmore Hute and Davis Mazodze to represent people with disabilities at grassroots level.

For more information on this topic see:
WEDC – Water supply and sanitation for disabled people and other vulnerable groups

Source: Zimbabwe Standard / allAfrica.com, 29 Aug 2009

Zimbabwe – Why sanitation is the forgotten sister

Q&A: Why Sanitation Is the Forgotten Sister

Busani Bafana interviews NOMA NESENI, WSSCC water, sanitation and health coordinator

BULAWAYO, Jun 11 (IPS) – As part of the International Year of Sanitation in 2008, Zimbabwe developed a national strategy for sanitation, launched in February 2008. Just five months later, a cholera outbreak that was to claim over 4,000 lives began.

One of the strategy’s key proposals was to call for expanded resources for sanitation including public-private partnerships to expand access to proper toilets across the country.

The task force included representation from key ministries such as health, water development, and finance, as well as civic organisations like Plan International, World Vision and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), for which Noma Neseni is the water, sanitation and health coordinator in Zimbabwe.

Neseni told IPS why she viewed the task force’s work as less than a disaster. Excerpts of the interview follow.

IPS: With Zimbabwe’s health delivery services in paralysis, what has your council done to improve sanitation in the country?

Noma Neseni: A national sanitation taskforce team developed a strategy that looked at priority areas. These included an increase in sanitation coverage using demand-led approaches, capacity development at all levels and research into low-cost appropriate technologies.

The strategy also agreed on the opening up of technologies instead of just using the expensive type of VIP [Ventilated Improved Pit] latrine. It was recognised that so long as the latrines took into account the specific scientific aspects of the VIP, the superstructure could be made cheaper.

This strategy was later presented to larger stakeholders who endorsed it. We also had a national sanitation seminar that was attended by different permanent secretaries who endorsed a communiqué that called on private public partnership scaling up of sanitation coverage and more resources for sanitation.

IPS: More often than not, when governments invest in water development, sanitation is its forgotten sister, why so?

NN: Water often gets visibility because without water there is no life. Thus in terms of demand, communities often demand for water over sanitation.

Water is also relatively easy to develop or provide whereas sanitation – especially for large communities – is complicated to implement and manage.

Furthermore, sanitation does not yield the same profits as water so utilities, private sector do not want to invest in sanitation.

It is also easy to show quick returns with water as compared to sanitation. At household level, people have alternatives they can use the bush but if there is no water there is no other alternative.

Even at national level, government has been putting more resources for water as compared to sanitation. Sometimes there is also lack of awareness and understanding on the value of sanitation for the different sectors such as education, environment, tourism, economic development.

IPS: Why is sanitation an important issue today more than ever before?

NN: Access to sanitation is an indicator for human development. It is important for girls’ education, for women’s safety and dignity, for improved health, for control of vectors and diseases and for ecosystem balance.

And yet there are so many people that still do not have access, in Zimbabwe we are backsliding from around 60 percent coverage to as low as 25 percent.

In urban areas where as once we had almost 100 percent coverage, access is now limited due to lack of water, urban population without houses, informal settlements.

In other words sanitation is important for control of diseases, for sustaining our environment and for achieving the many development goals such as maternal health, education, control of malaria.

IPS: Would you say women than men are more affected by the lack of toilets?

NN: Women and girls are more affected by lack of sanitation as they face defecating in the open which means loss of dignity. Women face sexual abuse and even rape as they walk alone at night using a predictable route to a predictable defecation site and there is the issue of embarrassment in the disposal of sanitary pads.

Men can easily urinate in the open and women often do not have that privilege especially when newly married as a daughter in law. Women also have to look after the sick i.e. [those] infected with HIV or suffering from diarrhoea: without latrines this task is even more difficult.

IPS: In your opinion would you say there is adequate attention to sanitation issues in this country if not, why not?

NN: There has been inadequate attention to sanitation particularly from the perspective of resource allocation. Sanitation is largely seen as a donor activity and even among NGOs; more money is allocated to water.

In recent years there have been challenges such as access to inputs like cement. There are also challenges with management of systems, Institutional problems moving the management in urban areas between ZINWA and local authorities.

Firstly, we need to just finalise the water and sanitation policy in Zimbabwe and then we need to rationalise these different policies that impact on sanitation e.g., water act, environmental bill, education act, urban councils act, rural councils act. The harmonization should lead to clear institutional roles and responsibilities.

A regulatory framework is also necessary as we see that the polluter pays principles are affected. At the moment the polluter fee is so cheap institutions would rather pollute and pay. We also need incentives so that policies are implemented without having to resort to punitive measures.

Source – IPS News