An alliance to fight water-borne diseases 


Source: An alliance to fight water-borne diseases | The Sunday Mail

An alliance to fight water-borne diseases

Muchaneta Chimuka

THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has partnered Goal Zimbabwe to provide learners at Mabvazuva Secondary School in Epworth and Tafara High School, among other educational institutions, with information on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to avert the re-emergence of water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

The learners are members of health clubs and are championing this cause in schools and communities.

UNICEF Zimbabwe, through support from UK Aid, is scaling up WASH programmes in schools, as evidenced by the Pilots innovative group handwashing stations it has established at school entrances to ensure learners and visitors wash their hands before entering the premises.

UNICEF chief of communications Mr Yves Willemot said, as the world continues to grapple with Covid-19 and diarrhoeal diseases, new and innovative group handwashing concepts are being introduced in many countries to improve handwashing practices.

Currently, only two schools in Zimbabwe are piloting the project.

“We are working together with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to make sure that learners and staff members are safe. Handwashing is very important to get rid of preventable diseases. This design enables schools to use significantly less water that has become scarce due to climate change,” he said.

The model, he said, uses a low-cost PVC pipe with small outlets for water.

The pipe is centrally opened and closed.

It also uses significantly less water than regular taps.

Goal Zimbabwe WASH officer Mr Ernest Mudavanhu said the method is cost-effective and will ensure regular handwashing in schools to improve hygiene, health and education levels of learners in under-resourced communities.

“The model has water-leaking points that enable at least 10 children to wash hands at a time, thereby enabling all children to wash hands quickly and utilising their learning period. The facility is close to the school entrance and near their classrooms to make sure it is easily accessible to everyone, including persons with disabilities, because they have their own specialised point,” he said.

He said they are planning to expand this project to several schools in rural and urban areas.

Mabvazuva Secondary School head Mr Obert Tsoka said the handwashing innovation is user-friendly to all ages and has become a relief to the educational institution since they used to resort to the bucket system, which was unhygienic.

“For the past six years, we used to rely on water from an unprotected well and some water bowsers from the local board (Epworth). Thanks to Future of Hope Foundation for coming to our rescue after they drilled a solar-powered borehole, which is now providing us with clean water. It is this borehole again that has made it possible for the handwashing point to be innovated here. Without water, nothing was going to be possible,” he said.

He thanked all partners for joining hands for this noble cause.

“We are currently using pit latrines and we really long for flush toilets since we now have water. We want our learners to be versed with the new technologies such that they don’t get embarrassed when they visit other areas that have them. Flush toilets are conducive for learners because they have sitting pans and it’s easy to fight germs using chemicals. Pit latrines can contaminate some water sources that are close,” he added.

Form Four learner Tafadzwa Chigwada, who is a member of the health club, said they used to rely on water from unprotected wells since the school had no clean running water for years, which resulted in several learners skipping lessons due to illness.

“We are happy we can now safely wash our hands after visiting toilets and before taking our food. Through the health club, we have learnt issues to do with environmental cleanliness, handwashing, community awareness and mobilisation, among others,” he said.

This cost-effective concept helps ensure regular handwashing in schools to improve hygiene, health and education levels of learners in under-resourced communities.

This is also in line with current WHO regulations on Covid-19 preventive measures.