July 04, 2018
Cholera incidents in Songwe District of Songwe Province were an issue towards the end of last year and well into the beginning of 2018. The cause for these infections was the lack of access to clean water by villagers. However, they were equipped with basic sanitation skills to deal with any such situation should it arise in the future, which they felt was beneficial.
Raymond Mhaluka of Bomba FM Radio visited the region to find out more. He hosts a programme that highlights issues on water, environment and personal hygiene. According to his report the community suffered from cholera by using water from unsafe sources. Also, the fact that the community was never in the habit of treating this water for daily use, contributed to the spread of disease.
Reports showed that in a period of nine months, between September 2017 and May 2018, cholera cases were reported in nine wards in the district. Up to 852 people were infected and treated but two deaths occurred.
Mbuyuni village is among the affected areas. Villagers were asked about the source of infection. They said that the lack of clean and safe water was the cause.
CUE IN: “Access to water is a big challenge in our neighbourhood. We fetch water from sources whose cleanliness is not assured. The source of water is varied. Shepherd boys defecate indiscriminately. Having come from the human waste, houseflies will land on the water. So, the water is the main reason for the infection.”
“We drink water that is not clean. You will sometime find human hair in the boreholes. We will fetch this water, which we will then store in our pots after nightfall.”
“Our boreholes are not the best. There is no proper management, because these shepherd boys don’t know how to make good use of the boreholes, after coming from grazing the livestock. They will use anything to fetch the water with, even though not anything should be used.”
“We use river water here in the village. We dig boreholes on the edges of the river and drink from them.”
“However, we were informed about there being two types of water. There is the borehole water for everyday use in such activities and chores as bathing and cooking. However, these boreholes are next to latrines, something which could have led to disease incidence in our village.”
These villagers are clear about the sources of water not being safe, which is a result of the human activities taking place around them, leading to contamination.
“There is an irrigation project near River Songwe where there is a forest. People work from morning till evening. During the long rains, people will till the land a little bit far from the river bank. So, we use the water even though we don’t know its source. People use it for bathing, washing clothes, yet we fetch this water.”
“There is a slaughterhouse where the river passes. All the animal waste and remains from the slaughterhouse are dumped in the river. This is the water we use from the boreholes for drinking downstream. So, this water is not safe and clean for drinking.”
However, this community never used to treat water for drinking. Also, they say that they were unable to access treated drinking water in some locations, whenever they are thirsty.
“Before we were shown how to make it safe for use, we never used to boil water nor treat it after fetching from River Songwe. We used to drink it the way it was because it looked clean. However, it was not safe. So, this is a big challenge.”
CUE OUT: “Children or even grownups used to ask why the boiled water never used to quench their thirst, or that it used to have the smell of smoke. But we were shown how to boil the water then let it cool, then use a clean cloth to sieve it before storage. So, we are seeing the benefits.”
This story was supported by a story grant from InfoNile and Code for Africa. It was originally broadcast by Bomba FM Radio in Swahili