Two years ago I spent seven weeks traveling throughout Zimbabwe with an educational based non-profit organization, the Elias Fund. During my time in this incredible country, I was exposed to many simple habits that to us, might seem extreme or unnecessary, but to the majority of Zimbabweans, these habits are absolutely necessary to survival.
Water, for example, is treated as it should be, as a finite resource essential to life. This perspective is not driven by clever marketing or encouragement from aid organizations, it is on the other hand, motivated by the simple fact that water is scarce and has to be used wisely. Simple acts such as watering crops, washing dishes or bathing are done so in a manner that to us, defines conservation, but in the minds of many, this is merely defined as survival.
Reducing our water usage is often times, in our world of ever-flowing streams and clean tap water, a mere afterthought…something that is lost amongst the misconception that we have at our disposal an infinite amount of clean water. In a country like Zimbabwe, however, and many more nations around the world, these acts of being “green” are not fashionable, nor popular, but instead they are matters of life and death. For without water, life cannot exist, and if you only have so much of it, you better figure out how to make it last.
Unfortunately, the condition of Zimbabwe’s political, social and economic environments have negatively effected the condition and treatment of their most precious resource, water. Since August, 2008 nearly 780 individuals have died from a cholera outbreak, a bacterial infection transmitted through contaminated water. Recent estimates have suggested that this outbreak, caused by an inadequate supply of clean drinking water and poor levels of hygiene, could surpass 60,000 cases.
We must recognize that issues regarding water on a global scale will inevitably influence our way of life; this is not a matter of how, but when. Our thoughts are with our friends in Zimbabwe and the many lives being affected by this outbreak.
As of December 15, 2008 the UN estimates nearly 1,000 Zimbabweans have died as a result of the recent cholera outbreak.