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How lack of water has led to the spread of HIV

Mashonaland East Province, about 60km South East of Harare, Zimbabwe, constantly experiences perennial droughts and water shortages.  The need for water is great.  Villagers walk for long distances to fetch unclean water in silted rivers or shallow open wells, exposing themselves to water borne diseases.

Most people in this region depend on farming and small scale gardening for food production.  The lack of water has seen villagers in past years depending on food hand-outs from relief organizations, including Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) through its partnership with Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB).  

Declining agriculture has had a knock on effect on employment opportunities and forced many men to look for work elsewhere, leaving behind mothers to care for children.  In turn, some women, have turned to prostitution or, some children, to child labour to raise money to feed themselves and those dependant upon them.  This has resulted in HIV/AIDS becoming a huge problem as women give in to prostitution and men, who are now working in other places, return with HIV.

HIV can lead to death, which can lead to a worrying number of child-headed households, as is the case in this Province.  Alternatively, many orphans are being cared for by grandparents as parents have died of AIDS-related complications.  All of this and these effects, and water is still scarce.  

Monera Church of the Nazarene is located in the communal area of this Province.  Last year the Church moved one step closer towards helping to address some of these problems.  In a collaborative effort NCM and the Monera Church began laying the groundwork for a community well, as the Westside Church of the Nazarene in the United States began raising funds.  

Fast forward and it is now a success story of how compassion helped transform many lives.  

The well was dug in one of the most drought affected areas, and a hand pump installed.  The clean water now provides a source of life to the surrounding villages, including the children who come to the local Church supported Child Development Centre and feeding program.

The local Church and surrounding communities use the water to grow vegetables for consumption and sale.  This has brought new hope to the communities as people now have activities that generate not only income but also food for consumption.  The clinic, near the Church, and the community school, have unprecedented access to clean water.  

There is less prostitution as women spend their valuable time working in their small gardens and less men travelling long distances to look for work.  Children who were forced to leave school to take care of younger siblings, while their mothers looked for food or unsafe water, are being encouraged to go back to school now.

Rev. Bernard Mukome, the pastor of Monera Church of the Nazarene, is a witness to the transformations this well has made to the surrounding communities.  He said, “there is hope now in the faces of the villagers who now can access water for consumption and for small gardens.”  The words of Jesus come alive in Mashonaland East Province, when He said, “I was thirsty and you gave me water to drink.”  Mat. 25:35

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