What safe running water

Dear Family and Friends,

Wide-eyed and open-mouthed in disbelief, Zimbabwe was shocked to hear that the Minister of Finance had started a crowd funding appeal for Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak. “Crowd funding? Are you serious?” were the two most common reactions to this unbelievable government response to the cholera outbreak which they had just declared a “state of emergency.”

Before and after the crowd funding launch by the country’s Finance Minister here are some of the other unbelievable things that are happening in Zimbabwe as we yet again battle this horrific, ancient disease that just shouldn’t be happening in 2018.

The President, E D Mnangagwa, donated US$ 100,000 from the Presidential Fund towards the fight against the cholera outbreak while Econet Wireless, a private limited telecommunications/mobile phone company donated US$10 million to the cholera appeal.

Newspaper reports revealed that Treasury is about to spend US$20 million on vehicles for the new MP’s. Why, people are asking, is the government buying new cars when people are dying from cholera because of dirty, contaminated water?

All week we’ve been receiving messages on our mobile phones from MoHCC (The Ministry of Health and Child Care) to make us aware of the cholera crisis, including “Wash hands with soap under safe running water after using the toilet;” “wash fruit or vegetables under safe running water before eating to prevent cholera and typhoid.” The messages are great but the reality of everyday life for millions of Zimbabweans does not involve “safe running water”, it involves stagnant pools in riverbeds, muddy wells dug on roadsides and in the bush and hours and hours spent every day by millions of women and children carrying water home in containers on their heads because they do not have running water. And I’m not talking about rural areas but right here in our cities and towns around the country. My home town only has running water three or four days a week and it has been like this for the past two decades. On the days when the taps are dry people go and scoop water out of little wells they have dug in the bush and from a wetland which is within a few hundred metres of the cemetery.

Around the neighbourhoods in my home town today a loud hailer is being used to spread a message from local authorities: “From tomorrow no one will be allowed to sell any fruit or vegetables from their homes or on the roadside or pavements.” In order to try and stop the spread of cholera all the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who survive by selling fruit and vegetables on the roadsides will be out of business, lose their livelihoods and be in dire trouble very rapidly. This is apparently going to be the policy all over the country and the impact on a country where 90% of people are unemployed and survive on street trading is incalculable.

As I write this letter the latest figures are of over 3,700 confirmed cases of cholera and at least 25 deaths. There are an additional 2,000 cases of typhoid in Gweru. A World Health Organization report this week said: “The strain of cholera bacteria that was isolated in patients in Harare has been determined to be resistant to first line antibiotics Ciprofloxacin and Ceftriaxone” and said two million people are in danger of co-infection of both cholera and typhoid.

Now, to save our lives we are all again memorizing the vital oral rehydration recipe:
6 level teaspoons of sugar, half a level teaspoon of salt mixed into one litre of cooled boiled water. We are trying not to shake hands, punch fists or give high fives when we meet our friends and we are smiling sadly and saying sorry as we pass the vendors and don’t buy their produce.

Until next time, thanks for reading this letter and supporting my books about life in Zimbabwe, love Cathy

14 September 2018

Copyright © Cathy Buckle. www.lulu.com/spotlight/CathyBuckle2018