Health & Sanitation

  • Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. That’s wrong. We all have the right to clean water. Oxfam is providing life-saving clean water, and sanitation and hygiene education in some of the world’s poorest countries, as well as in areas struck by humanitarian crises.

Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Zimbabwe

In rural Zimbabwe, where less than half the people have access to safe drinking water, traditionally it is the women who are responsible for collecting clean water for the home. This often involves long walks to a water source, with many of the women having to carry heavy buckets on their heads.  
 
These hours spent walking in search of water eat into the precious time that women can spend doing other things such as earning a wage, getting involved in activities in their communities or spending time with their friends and family.   
 
One woman breaking traditional gender barriers in the country is Takudzwa, an Oxfam water engineer. She has installed a solar-powered water system to deliver clean, safe water closer to the homes of the women in her community, changing their lives for the better. The new system in Masvingo District, which is funded by Oxfam, will supply water to many families in the area as well as a school and a clinic. 
 
Oxfam WASH (Water and Sanitation for Health) engineer Takudzwa at the Oxfam-funded solar piped water system in Somertone village, Masvingo District. Photo: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam 
 
The 33-year-old mother is proud to work on Oxfam’s water and sanitation projects because she understands that access to clean water is vital to the survival of communities in her country. 
 
Yet despite doing a job that she finds rewarding, Takudzwa says that her decision to become an engineer wasn’t welcomed by everyone in her family.    
 
“My grandma almost came to tears to say, ‘Oh why are you choosing a male profession? What’s wrong with you, my granddaughter?’ But because it’s something that I really wanted, I had to take up the challenge, said Takudzwa, who was the only girl in her engineering class.” 
 
Takudzwa working water system in her community. Photo: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam 
 
“I love water,” Takudzwa added. “There are so many things that have to be done. Having to come up with so many interventions so that we can always, at all times, have water, that is safe for drinking, that is in good quantities for the population that needs the water.” 
 
Takudzwa with her one-year-old son at her parents’ home in Masvingo before heading out into the field to see the solar-powered water system. Photo: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam 
 
Delivering clean water to rural communities is only part of the work being carried out in Zimbabwe, where Oxfam has been working for almost 60 years. Through our WE-Care programme, we are also tackling the issue of women being left to do most of the household work, which is seen as being less important than paid labour. 
 
This water project also feeds into a larger programme, which is helping to bring about significant change across the country. The work is empowering women and supporting communities in Bubi, Zvishavane, Masvingo Rural and Gutu districts by installing 10 water points as well as 15 laundry facilities. 
 
This means that women will no longer have to travel such long distances to collect clean water or do their washing, ensure household work is shared equally between men and women and help women to have more free time so that they can take part in activities outside the home. 
 
The world will only improve if women expand their role as political, economic, family and social leaders. The cost of excluding women is well-recognised. Yet women bear the biggest burden of poverty, and most of those living in poverty are women. We work to advance women’s wellbeing and increase the benefits of the contributions that women and girls can make to societies and economies. The untapped contribution of women is a priority that we are working to correct by supporting organisations that focus on gender equality, legal reform and ending violence against women. 

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Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Zimbabwe

4 things you need to know about Cyclone Idai

A man looks at a washed away bridge along Umvumvu river following Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Cyclone Idai has caused widespread flooding, landslides and destruction and left communities in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in urgent need of life-saving humanitarian assistance.

Here are four things you need to know about Cyclone Idai right now

1. The full impact has taken a while to hit the news

Communications and infrastructure were very badly affected, making it hard to see the sheer scale of the disaster and level of devastation caused at first. Cyclone Idai hit landfall on the night of 14-15 March causing extensive damage in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique with homes and agricultural land completely wiped out in some areas.

2. It could become one of the “worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere”

The exact impact is not yet known and the numbers continue to rise but millions of people have been affected by what the UN’s weather agency is suggesting could be “one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere.”

More than a thousand people are feared to have died, thousands more are missing and millions of people have been left destitute without food or basic services.

A family dig for their son who got buried in the mud when Cyclone Idai struck. Photo taken in Chimanimani about 600 kilometres south east of Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, March, 19, 2019. Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/REX
 

3. It’s a race against time

Oxfam teams and local partner organisations are already on the ground in all three countries and will be responding with clean water, toilet facilities, shelter, clothing, food and other essential items. In some of the most challenging conditions imaginable, Oxfam is working around the clock to make sure this vital work happens as quickly and effectively as possible. It is a race against time, you can donate to help us save lives right now

4. A longer-term response will take some time to evaluate

With an estimated 2.6 million people affected across the region, Oxfam aims to reach up to 500,000 initially – hopefully more – across the three countries, including in partnership with other international and local NGO partners. In Mozambique, where 2.1 million people are affected, Oxfam is planning to reach people through COSACA (a consortium of Oxfam, Care and Save the Children) as part of a programme to restore several basic social services including access to healthcare, education and water. In Malawi, Oxfam is looking to help 200, 000 people and in Zimbabwe 50,000 people.

You can help save lives by donating to Oxfam’s Cyclone Idai appeal now.

Oxfam responding to devastating Cyclone Idai

 
Following on from the devastating impact of Cyclone Idai in Southern Africa, Oxfam’s local humanitarian teams have been assessing the damage caused by this deadly weather event.
 
The most affected countries include Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, with estimations of 1,000 casualties at this early stage. This figure is likely to grow significantly as the real scale of the destruction is understood.
Mozambican flood victims have said that they had to pay to make the trip by canoe. Those that did not have the money remained behind.
 
People trudge through a muddied path to safer ground in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe. Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/REX
 
These rising numbers of people to internally displaced persons camps are already putting a strain on limited water supplies. 
 
There are additional concerns that sanitation will soon become a problem and food assistance will need to be brought in to provide extra immunity to the people affected.
 
Oxfam teams are assessing the needs of people in all three countries. They are reporting extensive damage to homes, crops, roads and bridges, and communications. 
 
Some areas have been rendered inaccessible because roads, bridges and phone lines have been washed away.
 
Oxfam teams will be prioritising shelter and sanitation as part of a large-scale evacuation of the worst affected areas. 
 
We urgently need your help to reach people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe who have been affected by Cyclone Idai. Please give what you can today. 100% of your donation will go to our emergency response.
 
The coming hours and days will be absolutely critical to our life-saving efforts. 

You can help

A donation of €50/£40 can give a month's supply of clean and safe drinking and cooking water for families in need
A donation of €100/£90 can provide a hungry family with enough money to buy food for 3 months
A donation of €125/£100 can give sanitation to 120 people to stop the spread of life-threatening diseases.

 

For more information , please contact:

Cyclone Idai leaves trail of death, destruction and homelessness in southern Africa

 
 
 
Oxfam will be responding with water, sanitation services, food and other non-food items to people affected by Cyclone Idai that hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe on March 14-15. Scores of people have been killed, several hundred more are still missing and almost a million have been left destitute and in need of aid and basic services.
 
Winds of up to 140 km/h destroyed farmlands and damaged houses, some beyond repair. Damage is likely to run into millions of dollars. The Presidents of Zimbabwe and Mozambique have both declared a national disaster. 
 
Oxfam teams are assessing the needs of people worst affected in all three countries. They are reporting extensive damage to homes, crops, roads and bridges, and communications. Some areas have been rendered impassable with roads and bridges and phone lines having been washed away. 
 
“We are still gathering data from the field. It’s clear that three provinces of Zambezia, Sofala and Tete have been hit particularly hard. Information is still trickling in. It is likely that Oxfam will respond in Zambezia and Beira at least,” said Lyn Chinembiri, Oxfam Zimbabwe's Humanitarian Manager in Mozambique. 
 
Oxfam has activated its new “Emergency Response Team” of water and sanitation, food and livelihood experts to assess the chaos. They too have been hampered by broken roads, communications and continuing bad weather.
 
In Malawi, the United Nations estimates that 739,000 people have been affected, exacerbated by floods that hit the country two weeks ago. Oxfam teams are assessing people’s needs in Phalombe and Mulanje districts, which were hit hard by floods.
 
Oxfam with support from the UNICEF in Mozambique and utilizing its emergency funding in Malawi, is initially planning a three month-long response in water, sanitation and hygiene work, including the provision of purifying tablets, buckets and hygiene kits as well food aid to vulnerable households.
 
In Mozambique, Oxfam is part of the COCASA consortium (with CARE, SCF and Concern) that is being led by the General Director of the National Institute of Disaster Management. COCASA is focusing on emergency shelter, water and sanitation services and other provisions and public service support.
 
Oxfam’s Southern Africa Regional Director, Nellie Nyangwa, said: "We regret the loss of life, and the first few days were difficult days as official agencies focused on saving lives and trying to assess the impact of the floods in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. We expect that there will be over a million people affected in the region. We are already beginning to focus on work that will help recover people's livelihoods, prevent water borne diseases, and protect displaced people, with a key focus on women and children."
 
For more information , please contact:
 
ROI:     Nyle Lennon on 083 197 5107 / nyle.lennon@oxfam.org
 
NI:        Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org
 

 

Biggest-ever waste treatment plant in a refugee camp is ‘step forward’ for safer human waste disposal in emergencies

Author: Kelsey-Rae Taylor, Oxfam New Zealand
 
 
Oxfam has opened the largest human waste treatment plant ever built in a refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The industrial-scale plant, funded by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, can process the waste of 150,000 people – a population bigger than Tauranga. 
Being able to treat large volumes of faecal waste on site, rather than having to transport it elsewhere, is a big step forward in how to safely and sustainably dispose of such waste in emergencies. 
 
Last year more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhoea were reported in the Rohingya camps, as well as respiratory infections and skin diseases like scabies – all related to poor sanitation and hygiene. 
 
Over seven months, Oxfam engineers and Rohingya refugees have built the massive system which has been specially designed for the steep, hilly terrain and to have the cheapest possible operation and maintenance costs. 
 
A suitable site was provided by the Government of Bangladesh and the project was delivered in collaboration with the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner's Office in Cox’s Bazar.   
  
Oxfam water and sanitation engineer Salahuddin Ahmmed said: “Safe sanitation is vital to prevent outbreaks of disease but disposing safely of human waste in the world’s biggest refugee camp is a major challenge. This ecological plant will help to keep refugees healthy by treating 40 cubic meters of waste a day – a huge amount. The initial investment is well worth it because the plant is cheap and easy to run and could last for 20 years – benefitting local communities when this emergency is over. We expect to replicate this model in future crises.” 
 
In emergencies, the most common method of waste disposal is to use tankers to suck out the sewage from latrines and take it away. But around 85 per cent of the world’s refugees are in developing countries, often lacking adequate sewage systems to deal with all this extra waste. Treating it on site reduces the risk that it will which end up being dumped in a field or polluting a local stream. 
 
The new, ecological plant, made up of treatment ponds and wetlands, is safe for people and the environment. It has multiple treatment stages to prevent contamination of local water sources and a high-density polyethylene liner and covered anaerobic unit to stop unpleasant odours escaping. 
 
The plant also produces biogas – Oxfam is exploring how to get this to refugee families to cook with. 
 
Aki is an 18-year-old Rohingya refugee who works as a community volunteer for Oxfam, talking to fellow refugees about good hygiene, handwashing, and keeping toilets clean. After a tour of the new plant, she said she had a better understanding of how her work is part of Oxfam’s wider efforts to stop outbreaks of disease. 
 
Aki said: “I didn’t know what happened to all the waste from the latrines. I’m happy that Oxfam has built this plant as it will help prevent the spread of diseases. Last year lots of people were sick with serious diarrhea. But we are seeing improvements. We can tell our community that this plant is doing something that will help for the future, and maybe also produce cooking gas. It’s great.” 
 
Close to a million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh still need food, water, shelter and other essential aid to survive. Oxfam is calling for more aid and resources to improve conditions beyond the basics and keep people safe. 
 
Oxfam is providing vital aid including clean water and food vouchers to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and has so far reached at least 266,000 people. 
 
Notes to editors: 
 
The plant was designed by a German organisation called BORDA - specialists in sanitation systems in developing countries. 
 
In 2018 there were more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhoea reported in the Cox’s Bazar camps, according to the WHO and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 
 
The UN calculates that 85 per cent of refugees are in developing countries. 
 
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