Zimbabwe's Cholera Outbreak Was A Blessing In Disguise

Thirty-five year old Amos Maparamhaka starts his day each morning by fetching water for his family, a role traditionally reserved for women. He and other men and boys in his community in the small farming town of Karoi situated about 204 kilometers north-west of Harare, say they were forced to take up this role as a way of assisting the women in the community and also to prevent another cholera outbreak in their area again.

”I wake up as early as five in the morning to fetch water and at times the search can last for 4 hours around town without success as not all houses have water everyday in the same area,” he says, pushing a wheel-barrow with buckets full of water.

Maparamhaka, a married man with two daughters aged 12 and 8 years, does this in addition to his work as a vendor at a local flea market. “I could not leave this arduous task to my pregnant wife,” he says.

Shorai, her wife, is proud of her husband whom she says has become a “role model” for some men in the town. ”What he has been doing is now normal for the majority of men as water challenges we are facing here needs men who understand that we need to complement each other.”

Karoi town, like most towns including the capital Harare, have not been spared by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority’s (ZINWA) monopoly and failure to treat and supply water to residents when it took over from councils more than five years ago countrywide. Zimbabwe’s water crisis saw a cholera outbreak last year which wiped over 4000 people. In some parts of the country the outbreak has resurfaced.

The farming town of Karoi has had its own population problems that it is failing to shoulder following rural-urban migration and influx of farm workers from nearby farms following the land reform in 2000. The town, which used to have an estimated 20 000 people now serves about  50 000.

The population boom has not been matched by the expansion of reticulation and water facilities in the town. This has seen a constant breakdown of sewage pipes that were put in place in the 1970s when the town was built.

However, with the current rain season, residents welcomed a move by a local Non-Government Organisation, Goal Zimbabwe, which is working with the community to ensure that another cholera outbreak does not occur.

Goal Zimbabwe, a non-governmental organisation based in Ireland has since its inception in 1977, been delivering aid to the poorest of the poor in the country and has responded to nearly every major natural and man-made disaster across 50 countries. Goal has been responding to the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe since December 2008.

In Karoi town, they have supplied water tanks at public places including bus-terminus to cater for public toilets and schools. Goal has proposed to sink 18 boreholes in Chikangwe and Chiedza suburbs to cater for water supply to hard hit residents.

Farai Kamutero praised Goal Zimbabwe for their efforts to provide water to the town. ”I believe Goal does not want cholera to recur as it will wipe us all within few days. Cholera has been a man-made disaster due to unavailability of clean water in major towns and all efforts must be done to curb this.”
Zvafadza Matare admits the water crisis has uplifted the living standards of women. ”We are witnessing better things out of the water crisis,” she says, adding that men like Maparamhaka were doing a great job to assist women to fetch water for their families.