World Health Day, 7 April, seeks to bring awareness to global health issues under the sponsorship of the World Health Organisation (WHO). To commemorate this day, our Head of Partner Support and Development, Richard Hatfield, and our partner, MeDRA’s, Programs Mangager, Tariro Washaya, reflect on our holistic approach to health in Zimbabwe.
All We Can supports traditional water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs through the work of our partners in their communities. As well as this, our partners promote and support plans to deliver long-term health to communities above-and-beyond immediate disease control. Our partner, Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA), have been steadily working in Gokwe South District, Zimbabwe, for the past 5 years to decrease diarrheal diseases and high morbidity, especially among children, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities 15 villages. To date, they have seen an impressive 80% reduction in diarrheal diseases as evidenced by the local clinic records.
A ‘demand-led sanitation approach’ focuses on awareness-raising, followed by concrete action, then reinforced by community management. Awareness-raising highlights to communities the importance of having sanitation facilities at their homestead, as well as the effects of open defecation on disease. As a result, communities construct toilets using their own resources and MeDRA supports the most economically vulnerable with full or partial subsidies to construct toilets. 1,000 ‘Ventilated Improved Pit’ toilets have been constructed, increasing sanitation coverage in the area from 14.4% to 52%. Residents also acknowledge and appreciate the privacy and dignity of using toilets.
MeDRA has also supported the supply of clean and safe water to 2,800 people in 3 villages through the drilling and installation of 2 solar-powered boreholes and upgrading and protecting 1 well. In reality, these serve a far greater population as each village shares its water with up to 5 neighbouring villages for sanitation and domestic use. In total, 2,500 households (12,500 people) have adopted good health and hygiene practices including the construction of handwashing stations, pot racks, and rubbish pits.
Continued awareness and good practices are promoted by 62 trained Village Health Workers and Community Health Club Masters. 3 Water Point Committees (comprising of 11 women and 10 men) improve governance and maintenance of the water points as a sustainability strategy. The training has created local ownership and stewardship of the water points as well as strengthening local capacities in line with Core Humanitarian Standards.
Covid-19 has served to further raise awareness and highlight the importance of sanitation; a situation MeDRA was able to reinforce by redirecting its budget to supply and distribute PPE (personal protective equipment) to 3,403 households (the equivalent of 38 villages covering 17,000 people) as well as helping villages to construct tippy-tap stations (suspended water containers operated by foot).
The health benefits go beyond these activities: the water supply irrigates village nutrition gardens where households not only grow vegetables, herbs, and medicinal plants but also sell surpluses for cash. Lastly, with a firm eye on the future, villages are now adopting ‘climate-smart’ farming practices focused on regenerating soil fertility and groundwater. These measures have the double benefit of protecting and enhancing the health gains made and, crucially, ‘climate-proofing’ communities against the impacts of higher temperatures and more severe and unpredictable rains.
 Gokwe South Rural WASH Management Information System 2021