Letter to the Editor

Why are we failing in public hygiene?

Dear editor,
ON MONDAY September 19, 2016 at 21:00 hours, ZNBC television aired a programme on solid waste management in which a professor who was on the panel challenged Zambians, on why during British rule, kapaso or messenger would make a whole district comply with basic laws of hygiene and solid waste management.
The same one white man would collect tax for her majesty the Queen’s government from all villagers, whether they were in formal employment or not. But with a bloated labour force, local government cannot measure up to the performance of just one colonial officer and his kapaso.
And true, during those days it was a jailable offence for a family to put up a property before building a toilet. The head of the family could even be sanctioned for such things as not having a food stall or crop field.
Sadly, after the white man was chased at independence in 1964, our towns and districts were all turned into open defecation areas. Freedom from colonialism brought with it serious outbreaks of enteric diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
I know of one place in Zambia where whenever a person uses a footpath which leads into the bush, pigs will follow them in the hope that the person is going to relieve himself/ herself. Pigs in this case help with the management of solid waste.
Such a scenario makes me wonder whether there would have been enough prisons in Zambia to hold us, had our colonial masters been here to see man living without built toilets and buying food from Chisokone and Soweto markets in Kitwe and Lusaka which are evidently open defecation areas.
I know how sensitive a subject of this nature can be to the Zambian society; but how have we found it easier to talk about use of condoms each time one has sex, than talking about not using open places and markets to urinate or defecate? Why should it be a taboo for us to boo or shout at the top of our voices each time we see someone defecating or urinating in public?
Furthermore, during colonial days the school teacher was the model for health living. School teachers would even preside over small village disputes because they were thought to be a source of wisdom and knowledge. But is this the case today? If that were the case, why are public schools and colleges open defecation areas?
I also know of a mine in the North-Western Province where it was a very serious offence to litter or even kill a snake. But the policy on the environment could only survive for as long as expatriates managed the policy.
The question I want to pause to our church leaders is this; did God create us ‘blacks’ with this inadequacy or this has just been a social evolutionary process? And why are churches not concerned about environmental degradation? All we see is church leaders pointing fingers at politicians; yet people pay more taxes to pastors than they do to Government?
Let’s all start making noise about solid waste management and hygiene in public places. And let’s begin with the source, and that is ourselves. Local government and police would be very wrong people to champion such a cause. My reasons are obvious.
Chambishi Mine Township

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