Community involvement improves sanitation

An international aid organization has launched a clean-up campaign and hygiene training programme in six towns and cities to avert a resurgence of typhoid and cholera.

School children cleaning up the town
School children cleaning up the town

The International Relief and Development, a relief charity registered in 2009, says it has plans to reach out to more than four million people in Harare, Chitungwiza, Chegutu, Kwekwe, Masvingo, and Mutare on a massive sanitation project to avoid a recurrence of the two disease outbreaks.

With the involvement of 300,000 community leaders and 60,000 students, IRD has set itself to work with existing groups in the health sector, in churches and in schools to achieve this goal. The idea is to transfer the ownership and responsibility for a safe environment to the various communities, officials said.

“IRD have realized that communities have a tendency of blaming all their challenges and shortfalls to their local authorities without them participating in finding solutions to their issues,” said Sam Tapera, the IRD sanitation and hygiene education programme team leader.

“Our organization is using various approaches to train communities through media platforms, organizing clean up campaigns, inter-community competitions and interactive training sessions.”

Interviewed by The Zimbabwean at a clean-up ceremony in Chegutu last week, Tapera urged residents to take charge of their destiny and promote personal and communal hygiene in their residential areas. The Chegutu programme, which ran under the theme: “Zero Open Defecation +Hand washing with soap = Diarrhoea free communities” saw hundreds of residents and school children converge at various centres to clean up the town.

Tapera said the IRD identified solid waste management, open defecation and water quality as the main targets. Miriam Makuura (34), a participant, said the idea was well received by the people. “We came to a realization that our community were suffering because we were expecting the municipality authorities to do everything for us,” she said.

School children in Chegutu during a clean up campaign
School children in Chegutu during a clean up campaign

Chegutu Mayor Leo Gwanzura added: “Chegutu municipality has (already) noticed behavioural change among residents because of the programme. Residents, including school children, are now more active in community issues compared to the 2008 cholera era.”

The municipality has partnered with local schools in the fight against diarrhoeal diseases. “Catch them whilst young has become our motto as we look forward to total eradication of diarrheal diseases,” said Melania Mandeya, the town’s Director of Housing, Health and Community Services.

The IRD has supported the council to develop health clubs at most primary and secondary schools in the town. Cholera hit 700 people in Chegutu in 2008, killing 74. “It was very bad and it took us unaware considering that nurses were on strike,” said Mandeya. “There was mayhem since the municipal clinic did not have a secure place for cholera patients.”

She said from this experience as the country approaches the rainy season, Chegutu now boasts 200 children already in sanitation and hygiene clubs in schools.

“They are now very particular about eating without first washing their hands,” said Caroline Nyirenda, a teacher at David Whitehead Primary School.

Pupils now take turns to pick up litter around their schools as part of the training programme.

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