In Kindu, SWIFT project areas are seeing a dramatic reduction in the number of cholera cases.
The holistic and systemic approach of the programme to hygiene and sanitation, as well as a strong focus on sustainability, are already bearing fruit.
In 2017, the exacerbation of an ongoing countrywide cholera outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo resulted in >53,000 reported cases and 1,145 deaths.
Complex emergencies, water supply interruptions, high population densities, and population movement have enabled the regular spread of cholera around the Great Lakes in eastern DRC; with recurrent outbreaks progressing downstream along the Congo River, and spread along Congo River branches to areas that had been cholera-free for more than a decade.¹ Kindu, in Maniema Province, is one of the 20 provinces out of 26 affected by this waterborne disease.
Basoko health centre
Lualaba River in Kindu
The cholera situation in Kindu has changed dramatically since the start of the SWIFT programme.
In Basoko, Kindu Health District, medical staff used to treat 800 cases a year. There used to be so many cholera cases that the staff could barely cope. Graves had to be dug just outside the health centre, there was no time or resources to bury people any further. For the first trimester of 2019, only 11 cases were reported but they were all superficial. In neighbouring health zone of Alunguli, there used to be big problems with waterborne diseases because the population used to go relieve themselves in the river, where they would then fetch water. Since the start of the SWIFT programme, they have managed to stop the contamination chain and have already had 2 years without cholera.
SWIFT’s innovative communication for behaviour change really influenced people’s habits.
Kindu residents, like Henry, say they are feeling much healthier and don’t have to visit the health centre as often. With the communication for behaviour change that Tearfund implemented, working with the Community Health Volunteers, people now know correct handwashing techniques, how to build hygienic latrines. Beyond access to water, these practices have a big impact on people’s lives. The teams worked hard to spread innovative hygiene messages, they went beyond traditional messaging and appealed, for instance, to people’s desire for respectability and social status.
Henry, Alunguli resident
Helena, Kindu resident, with her handwashing device
The teams are working hard to make sure this change is sustainable.
Now that the implementation phase is over, the teams need to consolidate their work during the sustainability phase of the project. The medical staff are worried that the population can quickly forget new habits. But the Tearfud teams will keep raising awareness so that people retain the knowledge they already have. This is what will make the project sustainable in the long term.
Since 2014, the Sustainable WASH In Fragile Contexts (SWIFT) Consortium has been working to provide access to water and sanitation and to encourage the adoption of basic hygiene practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in Kenya.
Various partners implement SWIFT’s actions in both target countries, in collaboration with governments as well as water providers, including utilities. The consortium is led by Oxfam, and includes Tearfund and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) as global members.
The SWIFT programme is funded by UK aid from the UK government under a Payment by Results (PbR) contract.