Joanna is in Zimbabwe, where MSF has been helping to fight an outbreak of cholera...
Back in the car I stare out the window thinking about the situation. I ask Precious if she like so many of her country-people is thinking of leaving the country. “No,” she says shaking her head. “Sometimes it is not about you, it is about the next person, about the next vulnerable person. You have to think about that other person,” she explains.
We reach another section of Mabvuku where 160 households have not had water and electricity for over a year. But worse than this is that not only do their toilets not work, but the sewage blocks up and spills into their houses. “The woman that lives there,” says Precious pointing to a house to our right, “was weeping to me last week in despair because the sewage had covered all the rooms in her house. She didn’t have anything to properly clean and disinfect her home after she cleared the filth.”
“It is by the grace of God that you have found us and we are not dead from cholera,” says Moses, 45, one of the residents of the area. He has used sandbags to block the sewage pipes from backing up into his house.
Precious and I hit the road again and travel to a neighboring settlement called Caledonia Farm. This is so close to Harare, but it is a completely rural settlement, with sand-dirt roads, fields of corn, sunflowers smiling out through deep lush green. Here people were dumped when the government destroyed over 700,000 houses during 2005 in an alleged effort to clean up high-density settlements.
Hardwork Malifande, a resident shows us around. He is a teacher but now he doesn’t go to teach since the government is not giving them adequate salaries to live. He tries to get by through private lessons.
Hardwork walks over to one of the house where MSF has built one of the 200 latrines constructed for this community. Regina is very proud of her freshly-varnished wood latrine and is broadly smiling. “How many families use this latrine?” I ask her. She calculates slowly and answers, “about five families.” Five families! I think how just between my boyfriend and I we get into an argument about the use of our toilet, I can’t imagine five families!
But Regina is very content, even if it means that the work of keeping the latrine clean falls to her since she is the one living closest. “I am very happy,” she says. “Before I was always travelling a long distance to go to the toilet, but now there is no problem because everything is now in my good hands.”
Hardwork takes us to another homestead where an elderly man and his wife take care of the newly constructed latrine. The man has white grizzled hair cropped short and gnarled hands. He can not speak English, though he seems to want eagerly to share something with me. But he is shy and embarrassed. Finally, as we are about to leave he looks me in the eyes and haltingly says “Thank you.”