ZAP News

Power Cut in Zanzibar

In the midst of a very happy typical western Christmas, with hot and cold water and plenty to eat and drink, we heard extremely sad and worrying news from Mr Pandu in Zanzibar. For the past 2 weeks the island has suffered a complete power cut - the island is basically totally without power, and therefore electricity, light, and fresh water (since in Jambiani, as in many other villages, the source of fresh water is via an electric water pump). Those who can afford it, and all the major hotels, have generators (incidentally, a huge pollutant when used on this massive scale). Others simply have to buy water. But of course the poor people cannot afford this, and they are forced to draw water from the old, potentially deadly wells. Despite valiant efforts by Dr Hamza and others in Jambiani to warn against the danger, and to teach rules of strict hygiene, disease is rife. What makes it worse is that this is the season of heat and humidity. In the past few days, 100 people have been admitted to emergency clinics with dysentery, and 2 have died.

Very little news is available, though it is said that the problem could take several more WEEKS to repair. What disturbs us the most is that this extreme situation has gone entirely unreported in the main media. Even on the internet, there is barely a mention, except how it is affecting tourism. A population of approximately 1 million people, most of whom are already living barely above subsistence level, is without fresh water for the foreseeable future, which surely amounts to a crisis of considerable proportions.

We feel helpless, for beyond releasing emergency funds from ZAP for extra medicines, food for the emergency health teams, and an allowance for our ZAP staff to purchase water when they need it, we are powerless. There are many questions to be answered - what caused this disaster (barely a year after the last major power cut)? Are the government doing all they can? Have the big aid agencies released any emergency funds? Do they even KNOW about it?

After the Christmas break, we will contact our MP, and ask if there is anything he can do to put us in touch with international agencies. However, in the meantime if there is anyone out there who feels they could help to spread the word through the digital media, may we ask you to do so? It can do no harm to post news of the situation on Facebook, Twitter etc.

Please do email us at ZAP if you have any ideas, or contacts which you think might be useful.


We arrived in Zanzibar after a long flight from London, and a longer than expected boat trip across to Stone Town. After such a tiring trip it was great to be met off the ferry by Salam, a good friend of Pat and Janie’s from ZAP. Once settled into a hostel, we set about trying to organise our work at the Mnazi Moja hospital. This, as expected, was a little more time consuming than we’d hoped, but eventually we found ourselves in the small, but surprisingly well equipped physiotherapy department. Memoko, a Japanese volunteer, had been there for 18 months already and showed us the ropes for the first day. After that we were on our own.

We’d normally arrive to a department filled with patients so it was all go from the minute we walked in. Monday and Wednesday’s were assigned to adults, Tuesday and Thursday’s children. On Friday the department was much quieter and was used to see any patient you needed to spend more time with. Our day began at 8.00am and finished whenever all the patients were seen. This could vary from 11.30am to 2.00pm. When comparing this to a typical day in the NHS this seemed ridiculously short, but we soon discovered we were seeing the same amount of patients but at a much faster and much more intense pace.

ZANZIBAR ACTION PROJECT is a Registered Charity in the UK No. 1108030