The Number One Solution to a Number Two Problem

By Heifer International

February 27, 2020

A woman stands in front of a newly constructed latrine.
Emilia Tumbe of Zimbabwe rebuilt bathroom facilities for her family after their latrine was destroyed by Cyclone Idai. Photo by Joseph Mandinyenya, Heifer Zimbabwe

In This Article

  • Cyclone Idai smashed through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in March 2019.
  • More than a thousand people died in flooding and mudslides.
  • Survivors faced homelessness and a complete lack of sanitation facilities.
  • Heifer International stepped in to help preserve health and dignity for storm survivors.

In the aftermath of natural disasters, the problems you might not anticipate can quickly turn into major challenges. Families in Zimbabwe experienced this nearly a year ago, after Cyclone Idai smashed through their country.

The storm, flooding and landslides Idai brought killed more than 1,000 people. Many survivors were left homeless, with very few resources to help them rebuild. And for plenty of families, the cyclone wiped out not only their homes, but also their latrines.

Emilia Tumbe’s family of six had to crawl behind bushes to relieve themselves after their pit latrine was destroyed by Cyclone Idai in March 2019. Like many others in the hard-hit Bikita district, her family had no choice but to resort to open defecation, a practice that can spread typhoid, cholera, diarrhea and other infections. Leaving human waste on the ground also threatened clean water sources.

Cyclone survivors salvage building materials.
Cyclone survivors salvaged what they could.

Providing toilets and sanitation may not come to mind immediately when you think of Heifer International, a nonprofit best known for providing livestock and training to small-scale farmers. But without healthy people and a healthy environment, there’s no way for farms to thrive. Realizing the imminent danger, Heifer Zimbabwe donated hundreds of containers to keep drinking water fresh and clean and 250 bags of cement, enough to rebuild 130 destroyed latrines.

Six bags of cement went to Emilia Tumbe’s family.  

“I would like to thank Heifer Zimbabwe for such a noble gesture. We were given a steppingstone that helped us bounce back from the shock of the storm,” she said. “Truly our dignity had been stripped off, but it has now been restored.”

Story and photos by Joseph Mandinyenya, Heifer Zimbabwe