PRISCILLA MWILA, Lusaka
THE Rufunsa Game Management Area, which lies between the Lower Zambezi National Park, the Zambezi and Luangwa rivers, has some
magnificent scenery and rich historic assets. In fact, it contains a number of important cultural and heritage sites.
These cultural and heritage sites include the Nyamfwiti Sacred Tree, where suspected wizards are said to have been stoned; the Kabila Rock, which was used as a stop-over for slaves; and Mbambara ceremonial hut, where local people used to pray to their ancestral spirits during droughts.
For what it is, the Game Management Area in Rufunsa, which was declared a district in 2012, serves to conserve a wide variety of wildlife.
Rufunsa, which is about 158 kilometres from Lusaka, is rural and still crying for services including the provision of water and sanitation services.
Margaret Soko, a resident of Rufunsa, had an experience.
Ms Soko gave birth to her third born child at Kankumba Rural Health Post in Rufunsa last year, but she had no one to give her clean water to bath and wash her cloths.
“I was forced to leave my new-born baby in the hands of a stranger because I had to go and fetch water to wash my clothes,” Ms Soko says.
From the time Kankumba Rural Health Post was built about two years ago, it has operated without clean piped water, forcing health workers and caregivers to walk long distances to fetch water for patients.
“We were very happy when this health post started operating. However walking long distances to fetch water became a challenge over time especially for pregnant women,” Ms Soko says.
That is a view shared by not only the residents but also the health workers.
Derrick Makwebo, who is officer-in-charge at the health post, says lack of water at the clinic made their work difficult.
“We have had no water at the health centre for over two years now. We used to walk long distances to fetch clean water. It was difficult for us to operate as we needed regular water supply to effectively render our services to the people of Kankumba and other surrounding communities,” Mr Makwebo says.
Some care-givers were being forced to carry water from their homes whenever they visited a patient at the centre.
Kankumba village is located on the Great East Road in Rufunsa and the health post caters for thousands of residents in the area.
The health post mostly offers out-patient services. However, after the construction of a maternity ward at the centre, women are admitted for observation after giving birth.
“We did not want our caregivers to carry water from their homes for their patients, but it was due to circumstances beyond our control. Sometimes our health personnel were inadequate to fetch water for each patient that we had at the time,” Mr Makwebo says.
The health post is not the only place that lacked clean water supply; most communities in the district still lack water and many people are forced to fetch water from nearby streams and rivers where animals also drink from.
This obviously increased the risk of disease such as diarrhoea, typhoid and dysentery.
In fact, Mr Makwebo says the health post recorded over 300 cases of diarrheal diseases last year and at the beginning of this year.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old despite it being both preventable and treatable. A significant proportion of diarrhoeal disease can be prevented through safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.
The UN Agency, which is concerned with international public health, says each year, diarrhoea kills around 525,000 children under five.
Interventions aimed at providing safe-drinking water as well as adequate hygiene should be prioritised.
Fortunately, the Zambian government recognises that.
“Access to water and sanitation services by all segments of the population is a key component of all aspects of sustainable development and this challenge becomes more important when the population growth by 2030 is factored in,” according to the Seventh National Development Plan (SNDP).
“All sectors require access to adequate water and sanitation services for their productivity to be enhanced.”
In 2015, only 40 percent of households in Zambia had access to improved sources of sanitation. Additionally, 27 percent of people in urban areas and 85 percent in rural areas had no access to improved sources of sanitation. The proportion of households accessing improved sources of drinking water increased from 63 percent in 2010 to 67.7 percent in 2015. Households in urban areas had more access to improved sources of drinking water at 89.2 percent compared to 51.6 percent of households in rural areas in 2015.
“Poor water supply and sanitation conditions are major contributors to the burden of disease and expose people to water-borne diseases and related ailments,” the SNDP reads. “There is need to increase levels of access to clean and safe water and sanitation services for people in rural and urban areas.”
So, where does that leave the people of Kankumba in Rufunsa.
World Vision Zambia, in partnership with Davis and Shirtliff, which offers a comprehensive range of products and services related to water supply and power, donated a solar-powered water supply system to Kankumba community.
The water supply system was built at a cost of K150,000.
The facility, which will be stationed at the health centre, is expected to supply water to over 11,000 people in Kankumba and other surrounding communities and reduce the distance covered in order to access clean water.
World Vision grants manager Dimuna Mwanza said after handing over the facility that the gesture is part of the organisation’s water sanitation and hygiene programme being rolled out country-wide.
“The facility will provide water to Kankumba Rural Health Post, Kakumba Primary School and to villages. So far, we have 63 of the same kind in various communities countrywide. We are also targeting schools because we want children to learn in a clean environment,” Ms Mwanza said.
World Vision is working towards expanding the project’s scope so that 300 mechanised water facilities are set up countrywide by 2030.
Ms Mwanza says the responsibility of improving the livelihood of vulnerable people should not be left to Government alone.
Alfred Kabwe, a resident of Kankumba, is a happy man.
“We want World Vision and other stakeholders to partner with Government and extend such help to other communities to improve access to clean water and reduce outbreak of diseases,” he said.