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Scaling up the response

I’ve just spent the festive season in Harare, Zimbabwe where I’m Save the Children UK’s Emergency Programme Manager. I should be here for two or three months and the main aim is to get the consolidated response to cholera, nutrition and malaria sorted with some child protection and education work included.

The main cause for scaling up is the cholera which has been splashed over the international media for weeks. The situation is not about to get any better with rains falling in the most affected areas. The other threat is that malaria will take a strong hold too as the population gets weaker and weaker from lack of food and necessary resources such as health care especially the under fives.

I’m living in a good part of town in a nice guest house, sharing with another colleague who will stay for the same sort of time as myself. We have a cook/cleaner Sophie who has a determined look and a ready smile. Standing in the kitchen this morning, Sophie told us about her father who had died over the festive period of cholera. He was 54. Sophie is the eldest of six girls and is now the major bread winner of the family and, she has two teenage daughters of her own who she has to continue to put through school. Her father died while out looking for food for his family which, as we know, is scarce.

Her family live in Masvingo where there have been 412 cases of cholera and 44 deaths since September. The case fatality rate (CFR) is 10.5% and the national average is 5%. Save the Children do not work in this district and while I was standing watching this woman, who had a tear in her eye and was holding the clothes she was going to wash for me, I realised I didn’t know what to say or what to do.

Confronted with someone who is so directly affected where I can do absolutely nothing about bringing her father back, or not having been in a position to have helped before he died is more than difficult. The people we serve, the beneficiaries we deal with are not just statistics, they are human and have real needs and concerns for how they are going to survive. They are real.

It was a sad reminder for me this morning that to be able to scale up we need resources and in these turbulent times, are we going to be able to get them?

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