Medair Medair



In 2008-09, Zimbabwe suffered Africa’s deadliest cholera outbreak in 15 years.
  • Share:

A majority of Zimbabweans have poor access to safe drinking water, including those who live in urban centres. A deadly cholera outbreak in 2008 and 2009 killed more than 4,000 people, highlighting the desperate state of the country's water supply and sanitation. In fact, cholera affects the nation on an annual basis; though often contained, it does lead to more fatalities. Other illnesses related to poor water quality are prevalent in the country, including diarrhoea, skin and eye diseases, malaria, and dysentery.

Drought is also a recurring problem that severely limits local water supply and which has led to poor harvests and a lack of pastures for livestock—especially in areas where natural resource management is not fully sustainable.

At health clinics where babies are delivered, the lack of water has led to unsafe and unhygienic conditions. In some cases, expectant mothers have been requested to bring their own water with them. Some mothers will give birth at home due to the lack of clinic water, which increases the deadly risks for themselves and their babies due to complications during birth.

Schools also lack safe or sufficient water supply, which means that students get sick from drinking contaminated water, must spend significant time collecting and carrying water to drink during the day, and are also unable to wash their hands after using the toilet.

Medair has been actively providing relief and recovery in Zimbabwe since 2010.

Where We Help
Matebeleland South

Droughts are more frequent and severe in Matebeleland South than in other parts of Zimbabwe. In the rural districts of Bulilima and Mangwe, health clinics and schools face severe water shortages that cause unsafe conditions and discourage attendance. Women and children generally gather water from holes in dried-out riverbeds, unprotected wells, and rainwater ponds, where water is highly susceptible to contamination. In fact, five of the 10 most common illnesses in these districts are related to poor water quality.


Zimbabwe’s second largest city is dealing with severe water shortages that threaten the health and livelihood status of the population.  Cholera remains a deadly health risk in Zimbabwe, with new cases still appearing in urban and rural areas. Bulawayo is home to 1.5 million people and is regarded as the business capital of Zimbabwe. The city urgently needs improvements to its water system to protect its most vulnerable residents.

Our Projects
Harvesting the Rain: Safe Water Access in Schools and Health Clinics image
Harvesting the Rain: Safe Water Access in Schools and Health Clinics

When rain falls in Matebeleland South, it becomes a precious resource that should be collected and saved for use. Medair is installing sustainable rainwater harvesting systems that improve safe water access in numerous schools and health clinics in Bulilima and Mangwe districts. We are also working with a local partner to promote hygienic practices that reduce the risk of water-related illness. Our project includes:

  • Building rainwater harvesting systems in schools and clinics 
  • Promoting health and hygiene awareness
  • Establishing health clubs in schools that motivate children to carry positive health and hygiene messages to the community  

Urban Life Support: Boosting Water Supply and Flow in Bulawayo  image
Urban Life Support: Boosting Water Supply and Flow in Bulawayo

Bulawayo’s water shortages are caused by an insufficient supply of water coupled with failing infrastructure that loses water before it can reach homes, schools, and businesses. To prevent a potentially devastating cholera outbreak in the city, a multi-partner one-year emergency initiative has been established, called the Bulawayo Emergency Water Augmentation Programme (BEWAP).

Medair is a key partner in BEWAP, a collaboration among local authorities, the UK Department for International Development, World Vision Zimbabwe, Dabane Trust, and Medair to ensure the health and well-being of at least 140,000 residents, particularly the vulnerable, disabled, and elderly, through the following projects:

  • Construction and repair of boreholes to improve water supply
  • Rehabilitation of vital water system infrastructure including water treatment plant and replacement of at least 60 kilometres of old pipes
  • Improvement of sanitation and handwashing facilities in schools and social centres
  • Detailed analysis of the Bulawayo aquifer to determine extraction rates, water quality, and sustainable use
  • Hygiene promotion for 84,000 students to increase knowledge and practice in water conservation and safe hygiene behaviour.
  • Construction of emergency water stand and tanks at 73 schools and seven institutions.

  • Leaving Zimbabwe 07 July 2014
    Medair has concluded its humanitarian activities in Zimbabwe after four-and-a-half years of delivering major improvements to the country’s water infrastructure.    In …
  • Zimbabwe: Water Taps Flowing in Marondera 14 December 2012
    Medair’s urban water project has made it possible for safe drinking water to flow from household taps for 120,000 residents in Marondera town, Zimbabwe. In October 2010, …

Core Activities

  • Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene icon

    Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene

    WASH saves lives by stopping the spread of disease. In a crisis, few things are more important than safe water, sanitary latrines, and good hygiene.

Click here to download the fact sheet about our programme in Zimbabwe.