Clean Water Protecting Communities from Disease in Zimbabwe The San community from Mtshina village in Tsholotsho district, traditionally hunter-gatherers, nowadays live around the Plumtree area of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. These relatively new arrivals to the region try to find employment wherever they can, often as casual labour in neighbouring villages, but they unfortunately often remain a marginalised people.

The children of the village, especially, suffered from their new circumstances, due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene practices. Many children got ill from water-related diseases, including skin infections, diarrhoea, and bilharzia, which would result in them urinating blood.

With little or no toilet facilities, the community would defecate out in the bushes surrounding their homes and then, due to lack of water and taps, would just go back to doing whatever they were doing without washing their hands, which led to many infections and illnesses.

The International Medical Corps visited the community and helped them to establish the Siyazama Community Health Club in Mtshina village in 2014, with a Community Based Facilitator who was trained up in improved health and hygiene practices and also given the skills for facilitating sessions within her community so that she could help spread the important message about good health and hygiene practices.

Community Based Facilitator Grace Moyo, a 37-year-old mother of four, shares messages around the importance of hygiene, both personal and within the community to all who will listen. The over twenty messages include information about washing hands with soap after defecation and before preparing food, safe excreta disposal options such as basic burying the faeces afterwards with a hoe, as well as some sound practical advice on how to construct a pot-drying rack and a “tippy tap” for handwashing.

Membership of the Siyazama Community Health Club is growing, and as members finish their training they are awarded with certificates and sent out into the community to spread the messages. As the community sees that water-related illnesses are diminishing with these new hygiene and sanitation practises, more of them are becoming hygiene conscious and the club is planning to construct toilets and develop a community nutrition garden.

Water is vital to humans for so many reasons, for drinking, washing, food preparation, farming and so much more, so do not waste it. Think about these San people the next time you just let the water run down your sink for no good reason and think what it would be like if you did not have potable drinking water.

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