AS cholera ravages through parts of Malawi, Syria and Lebanon, Africa Muslims Agency (AMA) has been offering emergency response solutions as well as long term and more sustainable options for people affected. NADDA OSMAN reports.
‘Empowering communities in Africa and Lebanon with clean drinkable water means that people do not have to rely on contaminated water, which reduces the risk of diseases,’ says Hussain Choonara, AMA’s regional director.
As of early November 2022, the World Health Organisation has recorded over 80 deaths from cholera in Syria and over 24 000 suspected cases.
This has spilled over into neighbouring Lebanon, which is grappling with the outbreak for the first time in 30 years. In Lebanon, over 3 000 suspected cases have been detected and around 18 people have died as a result of it so far. The worst affected are those living in the refugee camps, with little access to clean and safe water and medical care.
A similar scenario is unfolding in Malawi, where AMA’s team on the ground has witnessed countless examples of people drinking water teeming with dirt. Since the start of this year, around 27 districts have reported cholera cases in the country, raising concerns over the fast-spread of it.
One Village, One Well
Since launching the One Village, One Well campaign last month, AMA has so far been able to reach over 80 villages, supplying them with wells which will provide clean water. This water can be used for personal use, cleaning, cooking, crops and feeding livestock.
The campaign is designed to garner enough donations to provide each village with a well or borehole system, so they can have easy access to clean water and reduce the risk of spreading disease.
‘Once we identify where there is a need, we install a well or borehole in these remote villages, and people become empowered to grow their own food,’ says Hussain Choonara, describing how a water well can have a positive knock-on effect. ‘The impact of this is beyond imagination,’ he adds.
As our teams continue to work on installing these wells in the coming months, we are ramping up efforts in reaching even more villages across the region which are battling with the outbreak of disease as a result of a lack of clean water.
‘It finally feels like someone cares’
In Lebanon, our team visited the AMA sponsored Aman School of Excellence where they delivered informational sessions to parents and children about hygiene and how to stay safe during the outbreak. Dignity kits were also distributed, containing essentials such as clean water, soap, towels and sanitary products.
In the refugee camps nearby, where the spread of disease is common due to the close proximity of people and lack of resources, AMA handed out large containers of water for residents as well as cholera kits.
Fateem Khalaf al-Musa, a mother of six children, who resides in the refugee camps expressed her worries as cholera spreads around the country.
‘One of my biggest fears right now with the cholera outbreak is losing one of my children to it,’ she told AMA.
‘Considering how expensive everything is now in the country, the help from AMA is so important and will help protect us and our children. It finally feels like someone cares about us and is concerned for us,’ she added.
Women and children some of the worst affected
In Malawi, women have been some of the worst affected by water insecurity, as often they are the ones who spend hours each day going out in search of water.
Over time, this not only takes a toll on their physical health and stops them from working, but it can also be emotionally distressing and tiring.
Children have also been impacted by the lack of clean water available, as they are also forced to miss out on school in order to go and collect water.
With diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid rife, many are afraid of what the future holds.
According to the UN, around 90 percent of women are engaged in agricultural work. However, with a lack of safe and clean water, this means that even their livelihoods are at significant risk.
Any threat to the sector means that women’s source of income is severely impacted and can propel them further into poverty.
AMA’s teams in Malawi have noted how transformational a local clean water source can be for women in particular.
‘A water well can break the cycle of poverty because it has a positive knock on effect,’ says Choonara, describing the eruption of joy that occurs every time AMA opens a new borehole or well in the country.
For further details and to contribute, reach out to: Hussain Choonara on +27 81 030 8241
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Visit the website: www.africamuslimsagency.co.za