My name is Br. Tendai Lemeyu a Redemptorist from the Region of Zimbabwe. I am currently studying for a Bachelor of Education degree at the Women’s University in Africa. During my free time I do voluntary work at Caritas Zimbabwe Archdiocese of Harare (Caritas Harare), where my confrere Br Francis Marimbe C.Ss.R works. This month, I had the opportunity to assist Caritas Harare staff in their water and sanitation project being implemented in Manyame rural area. Through this project I found out that Zimbabwe’s water and sanitation situation remains poor in both urban and rural areas. I have noted that, 18 % of the population nationwide have no access to improved drinking water sources and 56 % do not have access to improved sanitation facilities.
Recently, I visited Dangarendove village under Manyame District in Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe which is about 120 km from the Capital City Harare. I was shocked and saddened to note that, 33 years after Zimbabwe got independence, people in this poor village are still practising open defecation, using the bush toilet system which is amenace to their health and to the environment. This increases their vulnerability to water, land and food pollution, resulting in cholera, typhoid, dysentery and diarrhea.
Considering the fact that, the area is not too far away from Harare and yet people in this area have remained so poor to the extent of failing to construct latrines for themselves and having no proper education on sanitation facilities, one tends to question the efforts of information dissemination to the most vulnerable communities such as Dangarendove in Manyame District. Within this same province the whole last week of October, the whole country hosted ‘Sanitation Week’ in another area (Mutawatawa) which is about 170km north-west of Harare where the minister of Health and Child Welfare urged the people of Zimbabwe to stop open defecation. I suppose this is possible only if people are educated and information is disseminated to the people especially to the most vulnerable communities.
Dangarendove village has about 300 households and out of 300 only 10 households have latrines. I also discovered that, the villagers do not have any source of income to construct the much needed latrines. However, there is a big dam and an irrigation which has been set up 10 years ago though not yet completed. An opportunity to improve the livelihoods of the people is on that irrigation scheme and I feel that much advocacy is needed for the kick-start of the irrigation scheme. I am afraid that if this practise of open defecation within the village continues, then cholera outbreak is on its way.
I also visited Dangarendove Primary school and the situation is the same. The school has 200 pupils and has only 6 latrines. These latrines are in a terrible state overflowing with human waste. I saw poor school children on bare feet using these toilets since they do not have any option. I was saddened to hear the number of children suffer from bilharzias, and are not receiving any treatment due to lack of health facilities within the area. The rural district council has managed to construct a clinic which is 10.4 kilometres away from the school. This clinic is not yet functional as it awaits its completion and equipment.
During my project visits, I came across one old man and he said to me, “I always remember the day of independence so vividly in my mind, as it was, like yesterday, I remember them(politicians) promising and swearing, in the name of God, to bring sustainable development. So many people witnessed by all their promises, but those were empty promises.” When I was reflecting on what the old man told me and all that I had monitored, I just told myself that yes! These are the poor and most abandoned villagers who are like sheep without a Shepherd, without anyone who really cares for them. I am very grateful to Caritas Harare for giving me this opportunity to serve and assist these vulnerable villagers. As a Redemptorist missionary called to serve the poor and most abandoned, I felt both challenged and affirmed by my encounter with these most abandoned and poor people of God. I would like to express
my sincere gratitude to Caritas Harare for accepting the call to serve, assist and empower the most vulnerable communities in Manyame and the whole of Archdiocese of Harare.
Pictures below are of latrine construction done by Caritas Harare from the slab level.