Clean drinking water has become a matter of life or death for many Zimbabweans in the past nine months as a deadly cholera epidemic has swept the country, claiming more than 4,200 lives from some 97,000 cases though tapering off since its peak in February.
While the number of new cases reported each day has dwindled, cholera continues to claim lives by the scores on a weekly basis. And the World Health Organization has warned that the epidemic could surge when summer arrives with higher temperatures and more rain.
So authorities have sought to educate the population on how to purify water: boiling for at least 10 minutes, adding small amounts of chlorine, or dropping in water purifying tablets like Aquatab or adding WaterGuard, a dilute solution of 0.75% sodium hypochlorite developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control with funding from the World Bank.
Since December 2008, U.S. consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble has distributed 4 million packets of PUR, also developed in conjunction with the CDC, a powder which not only makes water safe to drink but turns muddy water clear by precipitating suspended particles.
Distribution has been carried out with non-governmental partners such as Population Services International and World Vision, according to Procter & Gamble, which has launched a related initiative on an international scale called Children's Safe Drinking Water.
Dr. Greg Allgood, director of Procter & Gamble's Children's Safe Drinking Water program, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe about PUR and the company's involvement in fighting the persistent cholera epidemic in the country.