Zimbabwe: Take a walk in Agnes’ shoes

10-year-old Agnes carries this 15 ltr bucket full of water every afternoon but is happy to only have to carry it 400 metres and be able to collect clean safe water.

In the red dusty landscape of southern Zimbabwe, a slight figure walks under the blazing afternoon sun with a tin bucket swinging by her side.

It looks like a difficult and tiring task, but 10-year old Agnes [not her real name] is happy to collect clean safe water that is just 400 metres from her home.

Every afternoon, Agnes walks to a borehole that has been recently repaired by CARE to provide her and 300 other families with safe, clean water near their homes and school.

Water collected by women and girls

Collecting water is a task that is almost exclusively carried out by women and girls in developing countries like Zimbabwe. Without a safe borehole to collect water from, many females in Agnes' community used to walk for hours, several times a day, to collect enough water for their families to drink, bathe and cook with. Even after walking long distances to find water, it may not necessarily be safe to drink.

The lack of access to clean water, as well as toilets and information about sanitation, have caused illness in Agnes’ community – in 2009 the cholera outbreak that devastated parts of Zimbabwe claimed 4,000 lives and infected more than 100,000 people.

Since CARE’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project has been operating in the area, this has changed for many families.

300 toilets have been built by local communities, with assistance from CARE. Over 40 boreholes have been rehabilitated – providing access to safe water for thousands of people like Agnes.

"The borehole is closer to our house, it’s a good thing that we can get water there now. It is about 400 metres from our home and 200 metres from my school."

Learning about hygiene

Agnes has recently become a member of her school’s health club, a group that is open to any student who would like to learn about preventing illness through sanitation and hygiene practices.

CARE encourages teachers in the community to start a health and hygiene education club at their school, and provides the teachers with support and advice on how to teach hygiene principles that will improve the health of students, and their families.

"I really like being in the health club because I get the explanation about how diseases are spread. We learn about mosquitoes, diarrhoea and houseflies. We learn through drawings and from books," Agnes says. "I teach my younger brother and sister what I learn as well. Now, we wash our hands after going to the toilet, we know how to store water in the house and not to play in stagnant water."

Now, she incorporates sanitation into her daily routine – and she and her family are healthier because of the knowledge she has shared with them.

"In the morning, I make my bed, eat breakfast, sweep the house and bathe while my mother collects the first lot of water from the borehole.

"In the afternoon, I bathe again, sweep, wash the dishes, collect more water with my mother and help make the fire for cooking dinner."

More time to study

With less time spent collecting water, and more activities in her home to keep her family healthy, Agnes is able to concentrate more on her studies. And what does a young girl with a passion for health and hygiene want to do when she leaves school? Help others to be healthy too, of course!

Agnes explains, "When I finish school, I would like to be a nurse because I don’t want people to get sick. I want to take care of them."

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.