NKOMBO KACHEMBA, Nchelenge
ACCESS to clean water and sanitation still remains one of the biggest challenges that the country is grappling with, especially in rural areas where majority of the people still depend on untreated water from shallow wells and streams for consumption.
According to the United Nations International Childrenâ€™s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 4.8 million people in Zambia do not have access to clean water, while 6.6 million lack good sanitation facilities.
This has made it difficult for the government to successfully combat waterborne diseases, such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid, which are rampant in rural areas and in some urban townships particularly in high density areas.
To address this problem, the government has partnered with various stakeholders to implement programmes aimed at improving access to clean water and sanitation in rural areas.
One such programme is the Ground Water Development Project (GWDP), which the Zambian government, in partnership with the Japanese government, has implemented in Nchelenge district in Luapula Province to improve local peopleâ€™s access to clean water.
The project, which has been implemented in Kabuta ward in Chief Munungaâ€™s area, now supplies clean piped water to more than 40,000 households in the area.
Nchelenge acting district council secretary Edward Mutale said the water project was implemented at a cost of US$1.5 million and that it has been a success.
Mr Mutale said under the programme, 56 boreholes have been sunk in Kabuta, for the people to access clean water.
â€œThis water comes from a spring and it is pumped through the pipes by gravitation. It is purely ground-water and we usually treat it before it goes to the communal taps,â€ Mr Mutale explained.
The project has greatly helped to supplement the Luapula Water and Sewerage Companyâ€™s efforts of providing clean water and sanitation to Nchelenge residents.
Currently, the water utility firm only supplies water and sanitation services to two wards in the district, making it difficult for people in some places to access clean water.
Kabuta ward is densely populated and before Government implemented the water project, people used to draw untreated water from Lake Mweru and the streams in the district.
Emelda Chongo, 34, of Chief Munungaâ€™s area recalled how difficult it was to draw water from Lake Mweru or a nearby stream, which had stagnant water.
â€œWe are very grateful to the government for this water project which has greatly helped to improve our lives. Before Government installed the water pipes, we used to draw water from a stream, which had stagnant water. This stream had faecal matter and frogs in it, so our children used to get sick,â€ Ms Chongo said.
And Nelly Chandwe of Kebby village, who was found drawing water at one of the communal taps, expressed happiness with the project and commended Government for initiating the programme.
Ms Chandwe narrated how people used to walk for over 10 kilometres to fetch water from the streams, rivers and lakes before the water project was implemented.
â€œHere in Kebby village, we used to draw water from Lake Mweru, which is too deep. We feared for the lives of our children, but this is no longer the case because of the communal taps that have been installed in this area,â€ she said.
Ms Chandwe appealed to the people of Mununga to safeguard the water infrastructure which has been put in place at a huge cost.
And Justine Mwape, a caretaker at one of the communal taps in Chief Munungaâ€™s area, explained that the local people pay K5 per month to draw water from communal taps.
The money is used for maintenance and repair of the communal taps, in case of a breakdown.
â€œThe people here are happy with the project and are willing to pay K5 per month for the maintenance of the communal taps. So far, everything is going on very well,â€ Mr Mwape said.
And Kabuta ward councillor Frederick Mwelwa commended the people of Kabuta for working with the government in implementing the project aimed at fostering development in the area.
Mr Mwelwa said before government executed the project, Kabuta was prone to waterborne diseases because the residents had no access to clean water.
He said the government will continue working with the people of Kabuta to put in place projects aimed at fostering development in the ward.
And Nchelenge district commissioner Derrick Mwelwa thanked the Japanese government for partnering with the Zambian government to undertake the water project in Kabuta.
He said the government will continue uplifting the lives of people in rural areas through initiating programmes aimed at mitigating some of the challenges they face.
â€œThis water project in Kabuta is important for the local people. We hope to implement such projects in other places so that the people in our district can have access to clean water and sanitation,â€ Mr Mwelwa said.
NKOMBO KACHEMBA, Nchelenge