Zimbabwean children told volunteers: “This is the water we drink when we’re thirsty.” | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation

According to the latest update from the local government, a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe since February 2023 has affected over 20,000 people, leading to more than 70 confirmed deaths and around 300 suspected cases of cholera-related deaths as of the end of January 2024. With Zimbabwe divided into 10 provinces, five provincial governors have contacted Tzu Chi for help in building wells to ensure residents have access to clean water.

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa comprising mostly plateau land with limited water resources. In recent years, due to climate change, there has been less rainfall, and local people have been forced to use muddy water from puddles and ponds. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation

Cholera, which is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, mainly spreads through contaminated water. In Zimbabwe, water scarcity is widespread, forcing residents to depend on unsafe water sources like muddy puddles and ponds. Tzu Chi volunteer, Tino Chu (朱金財), who has been dedicated to carrying out Tzu Chi’s work in Zimbabwe for more than a decade, expressed worry about the shortage of clean water. Because they do not have many choices, people in the area are using only two layers of cloth to filter their water. Unfortunately, this method does not remove bacteria -- this  is heartbreaking to see.

Officials seeking help from Tzu Chi explained that local governments cannot afford the costs of well construction. With the cholera outbreak urgent, Tzu Chi has accelerated well construction aid since last year, building over 500 wells from September to the end of December.

In Zimbabwe, Tzu Chi assists in drilling and repairing wells, ranging from depths of 40 meters to 80 meters. Due to the absence of industrial pollution in the area, the well water is safe to drink. However, drilling a well locally costs US$3,000, a burden too heavy for the local governments to bear. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation

Tzu Chi currently has three teams solely focused on maintaining wells; they managed to repair 120 wells in January and February alone. Moreover, they distribute water purification tablets to residents in need. Since drilling their first well in Zimbabwe in 2013, Tzu Chi has gained the trust of the local community. They have constructed 236 new wells and repaired 834 existing ones, demonstrating their commitment to providing access to clean water.