The family foundation of Econet founders Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa is committing an additional US$60 million towards the cholera response in Zimbabwe. This comes on the back of an initial $10 million investment by Econet Zimbabwe at the onset of the cholera outbreak in September 2018. Almost half of this has been spent to date, and the Masiyiwas are now committing to expand these funds by $60 million of their own funds, to be spent over the next 5 years.
Since the 2018 outbreak, the Government of Zimbabwe has led a massive effort to contain the spread of cholera. The swift action and decisive leadership of the health ministry was a critical success factor. Through the support of partners like the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Medecins sans Frontieres, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Masiyiwa’s Higherlife Foundation this outbreak was, in relative terms, more effectively contained when compared to a 2008 outbreak, which took 4,000 lives.
Of the initial US$10 million investment, close to half has already been put to use to rehabilitate critically dilapidated sewer infrastructure and to procure emergency supplies to manage the outbreak. An urgent project is already underway to build a large public health emergency operations centre – a situation room from which the country’s Ministry of Health can better monitor and respond to a range of disease outbreaks and public health security threats around the country.
The new funds are intended to scale up efforts already underway, as they will support the country on a long-term roadmap to eliminate water-borne diseases, focusing on catalyzing innovative solutions to the water and sanitation infrastructure problem. “Rehabilitating water and sanitation infrastructure comprehensively will require a heavy lift, requiring a few hundred million dollars; we are working to make the investment case with other partners, to join us in this challenge to make the basic right to clean water a reality for all Zimbabweans,” said Mrs Tsitsi Masiyiwa.
“No one should die of water borne diseases” is the ethos for this response to end cholera. It is not acceptable that in 2019, people still lose their lives to cholera, which if detected early, can be prevented, managed and treated. In Zimbabwe, as in many other developing countries, cholera manifests as a health crisis, but is ultimately a development problem – an indication of critical challenges in municipal service delivery and financing, maintenance and management of waste and sewer treatment facilities, as well as emergency surveillance and response systems.
Part of the $60 million is being channeled towards catalyzing innovative public private partnerships that will result in creative financial models that can support transitions to sustainable financing of service provision at the municipal level.
The Masiyiwa’s $60 million commitment supports a wider cholera initiative, dubbed “End Cholera Now: The 10 year promise.” Spearheaded by a multi-sector National Taskforce on Cholera Elimination, with support from Higherlife Foundation, this 10-year initiative is establishing a reform agenda and convening a range of game-changing strategic public and private partnerships, with the ultimate goal of eliminating cholera in Zimbabwe by 2030. It is also guided by the World Health Organization’s Global Cholera Roadmap for Ending Cholera by 2030, and Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030 Framework.
++ The Masiyiwa’s philanthropic work is anchored around transforming Zimbabwe’s socio-economic narrative, not only to eliminate cholera in Zimbabwe, but to further develop and pivot Zimbabwe into a middle-income country by 2030. Higherlife Foundation was established more than 20 years ago as an education trust, and has since pivoted its strategy towards investing in human capital to develop thriving individuals and communities, and build sustainable livelihoods through impact investments in education, health, entrepreneurship, rural transformation and women’s empowerment. Beyond Zimbabwe , the Foundation works to develop the potential of young talented Africans, and has operations hubs in Lesotho, Burundi and Kenya.