Before a water kiosk was provided in Mbenje last year, villagers only washed once every fortnight in an effort to conserve water.
Hygiene took a back seat when there wasn’t enough water to drink, and water borne diseases were rife.
Charles Smowoya, of Christian Aid partner CARD (Churches Action in Relief and Development) explained how a five hectare irrigation scheme and the provision of the water kiosk complemented each other.
Before the water kiosk - a building with public taps - was provided the people had to walk 4.5km to access water.
He added: “With this project if we provided water for this area it would mean that most of the challenges that the people are facing will be minimised. This irrigation project is the first of its kind in this area. For CARD to be able to do this project, it is a plus to the whole district.
“In relation to the water kiosk it is used by some villages 8km away. At least now the distance has been shortened for them and for this community here, the water is on their doorstep.”
Disona Wambini explained that before the kiosk was provided there were many challenges for the villagers.
He said:” It was difficult to get water to drink or wash. When the rains are here we were drawing water from the Machipeloe river and it was not safe as we were drinking together with the livestock.
“When we were drinking this unsafe water there were outbreaks of water-borne diseases like cholera and dysentery. There were also cobras along the river.”
The children were not able to attend school because they were busy drawing water.
“If you got 20 litres for one house, then they would share it and maybe if you had five litres of water, you used it to wash for two days. There would be two to three trips per day just to collect water.
“The woman of the house would go in the morning and by the time she was back the time for school would be already here. And again this area is very hot. Sometimes we would wash once in two weeks to save the water,” added Disona.
For Mafuleri Tchuzi the lack of clean water proved costly for her with the loss of nine of her 15 children due to disease.
She added: “Plenty of people died because of the water. We used to share it with the sheep, goats, dogs and we weren’t able to treat the water.”
Prior to 2015 hygiene also came secondary when there wasn’t enough water to drink.
“If we can’t find water to drink why would I prioritise water to clean my baby’s nappies? We would take wood and scrape off the soil from the nappy, put it in the sun and re-use it. What I was doing was very unhygienic and many of the under five children couldn’t make it.”
Mafuler gave birth to 15 children but of the under fives, she lost five children and then a further four of her children also died.
When the children were sick she was able to get medicine, but the hospitals were very far away.
“If I went to hospital I would get medication and the child would get well, but when we came back to the village it was back to the same routine.”
Mafuleri says the water kiosk has had a huge impact on her life, particularly from a hygiene point of view and the way she is able to clean her house.
She added: “We are able to take care of the under five children and they are able to go to school. It has also had an impact on marriages. People used to split up because if the women were going at 4am to get water they weren’t getting home until mid day. The women now don’t have to get up at 4am and married couples now get up together in good time to get the children ready for school. Cholera cases have reduced and the under fives are healthy, unlike before.”
Since 2016 when the water kiosk was introduced no cases of water borne diseases have been registered.
Mafuleri added: “People come from far, far away to access water. Apart from that we need a health centre, because at the minute we have to walk for 8km and it is very far to take a sick and dehydrated child to a clinic. A lot of the children die along the way.”