|Children on their way to fetch water from a distant well near Plumtree, Zimbabwe.|
Shupikai, a shy 11-year-old in Zimbabwe's impoverished Binga district, had no choice but to drop out of school when her mother fell sick with tuberculosis and persistent diarrhoea.
Her father was already ill from an unknown disease. Her younger sisters were just one and three years old, and had to be fed and cared for. Because her family did not have a latrine or refuse pit, everyone was at risk of contracting the disease that was causing her mother's diarrhoea unless Shupikai swept up and buried the faeces carefully. And because they did not have a well, several times a day Shupikai carried a huge 20-litre container to the bore-hole three kilometres away, pumped water with difficulty and then carried the heavy container on her head for the arduous 40-minute walk back home.
“If only water was close by, half my problems would be over.”
When Shupikai was asked what could be done to ease her problems, she immediately exclaimed, “Water, water! If only water was close by, half my problems would be over. And if we had a latrine, my mother would have easy access to it. It would be easier to take care of my parents and sisters."
As part of a UNICEF-sponsored Hygiene, Water and Sanitation Programme, the government of Zimbabwe, Shupikai's community and UNICEF worked together to build both a well and a household latrine for her family. Her father moulded bricks, dug the latrine pit and paid the builder in kind with goats and chickens.
The pressures on Shupikai were eased so much that within a few months she had resumed school.