As Honiger Cheelo watched his wife and son waste away with acute diarrhea, he had no way of knowing their chronic illness was caused by unseen bacteria in the stream water they drank. Due to a widespread lack of information about health and hygiene, villagers assumed someone put a curse on them. Although it was too late to save the lives of his wife and son, the Salvation Army’s Chikankata Mission Hospital in Zambia was able to confirm the true — and sadly preventable — cause of their illness.
Today Honiger uses his painful experience to benefit others. As part of a comprehensive water and sanitation program sponsored by Cross International, Honiger educates children and community members about health and hygiene. “I do not want anyone to go through the loss I went through,” he said. As a result of this new information, villagers who formerly thought nothing of using the bush for a bathroom are no longer ashamed to discuss hygiene habits, but rather, they openly discuss how they can work together to keep their environment sanitary. And they no longer default to superstitious beliefs to rationalize illnesses, but have a deeper understanding of the amazing world God created, which includes microscopic organisms.
With community training such as that Honiger provides, combined with rubbish pits, hygienic dish racks ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines and community wells, the Chikankata Water and Sanitation Project is dramatically improving the health of thousands of villagers — for this and future generations.