Clean Water and Good Health in Zimbabwe

By Kathryn Paik*

December 22, 2011—Water and sanitation are key to good hygiene practices, and good hygiene practices promote good health. The Nyadire Connection and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) are working together to ensure both at Nyadire United Methodist Mission in remote and neglected Mutoko District in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe, in southern Africa, continues to face emergency humanitarian challenges, including disease, food shortage, and limited access to basic services. An acute cholera outbreak in 2009, with more than 100,000 cases reported, resulted in 4,000 deaths and overwhelmed most health institutions.

The underlying causes of the outbreak have to do with the lack of access to safe water supply and basic sanitation, access that has eroded significantly during the last few years. In addition, the general population has only limited information and knowledge about cholera and how to avoid it.

Mutoko District, 93 miles from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, had 2,500 cholera cases and 67 deaths during the 2009 cholera outbreak. In order to avoid and decrease new incidences and curtail the spread of the disease, there is an urgent need to undertake public health and hygiene awareness and establish water systems for public places such as health institutions and schools.

Established in 1923, Nyadire United Methodist Mission consists of a primary and secondary school, a teacher’s college, a nursing school, and a hospital with a total of 4,000 patients, students, teachers, and staff. It once had water supply from multiple boreholes, storage reservoirs, and piping throughout the mission.

In 1999, the Zimbabwe National Water Agency (ZINWA) offered to provide treated water pumped from a local river at low cost. This worked well for several years, and the Nyadire water infrastructure fell into disrepair.

As humanitarian problems within the country escalated in recent years, the ZINWA water supply became unreliable, expensive, and the water was frequently of poor quality. Government pumps were stolen, pipelines vandalized, and water was taken for other purposes from the supply line.

By July 2006, water outages of four to five days were typical. Nyadire mission regularly had to send its staff to repair problems with the government supply system. Since 2007, water outages have been a major problem for the Nyadire hospital and throughout the mission.

Currently, the people in Nyadire survive on the water from two boreholes located outside the mission. They wait hours in queues and travel long distances to collect water and carry it back to the mission.

UMCOR and TNC Nyadire’s water issues have been a longtime concern for The Nyadire Connection (TNC), an organization made up of six United Methodist Churches in the Pittsburgh, PA area.

TNC’s interest in the Nyadire mission began in 2006, when a group of 18 members of a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) delegation traveled to Mutoko District to provide medical support, build a nursing dormitory, and teach vacation bible school.

The delegation quickly realized that the mission’s needs far exceeded what their small group could provide. TNC was established to create a network of churches to advocate for the Nyadire mission, coordinate assistance programs, and raise funds.

Programs have included working with the Nyadire mission to bolster medical staffing at the mission hospital and provide operational support for the mission’s orphanage. In 2009, TNC approached UMCOR with a request to partner with it to address the problem of water supply at the Nyadire mission.

For the next year, UMCOR engaged various stakeholders, including the leadership of The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, the Nyadire Water Committee, and local lay leaders, as well as representatives of TNC, to prioritize rehabilitation projects within the entire mission’s water system.

After pre-project assessments were conducted and technical consultants engaged to determine the scope of work, a phased approach was adopted. At last, in June 2011, a project to rehabilitate three boreholes, install pumps, and reconstruct reservoirs and water canals, and train the Water Committee on maintenance and repairs was launched.

UMCOR Zimbabwe is monitoring the project, which is scheduled to be completed at the end of this year. When it is, the people of the United Methodist Nyadire Mission will enjoy the consistent flow of clean, accessible water, something they have lived without for many years.

There is more work to be done, and your gift to Zimbabwe Emergency, UMCOR Advance #199456, will help the progress in Zimbabwe to continue.

*Kathryn Paik is UMCOR program officer for Zimbabwe.