Analysis: LOUIS MWAPE
IN EVERY gripping conversation about water in relation to national development, one question that often doesn’t get as much attention as it should is sanitation. While water is to good health, sanitation is to hygiene and neither precedes the other to say the least, and that is why sanitation should equally begin to take its turn.
Often precluded by lack of adequate funding and poorly planned settlements, among other things, sanitation remains poor in Zambia. The National Urban Sanitation coverage currently stands at 62.6 percent against the population of over 16 million. Many commercial utilities are still making frantic efforts to attain acceptable benchmarks in terms of extending service provision to every nook and cranny of their coverage areas.
According to the United Nations report on sanitation, people without access to sanitation and water predominantly live in rural areas and achieving universal access to basic sanitation and ending unsafe practices such as open defecation, will require substantial acceleration of progress from various stakeholders.
For Central Province, there is some glimmer of hope in terms of having its sanitation increased. Even though it is usually on a low key and characterised by less fanfare in terms of huge projects, Central Province is set to break new grounds in terms of sanitation coverage. The recently concluded Sanitation and Hygiene Baseline Survey marked a series of important meetings and so much was unfolded.
Recently, SNV, a Netherlands non-governmental organisation (NGO), in collaboration with Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited (LgWSC) concluded and disseminated results for the Sanitation Baseline Survey, which was conducted in Kabwe.
The survey is part of the €5 million Dutch government-funded Urban and Sanitation for Health and Development (USHHD) project across five towns of Mpulungu, Nakonde, Mbala, Kasama and Kabwe.
The project is aimed at addressing challenges of sanitation across the targeted towns and anticipating to reach 210,000 beneficiaries, who should have access to sanitation, and 260,000 beneficiaries that could benefit from hygiene services across the five targeted towns in Zambia.
According to SNV, the forthcoming project is aimed at raising the profile of on-site sanitation, of which most (80 percent) of the residents in planned and unplanned settlements tend to use. On-site sanitation ranges from septic tanks to pit latrines.
The widespread sense is that for a region like Central Province, which currently stands at 42 percent in terms of sanitation coverage, the Urban and Sanitation for Health Hygiene and Development Project (USHHD) project, which is now being referred to as the Chambeshi-Lukanga Sanitation project is surely a precursor to improving sanitation.
The baseline results reveal that open defecation stands at over 16 percent, significantly notching higher than the rest of the earmarked towns. This clearly indicates that improving sanitation is a matter of urgency.
On the other hand, dissemination of results to the public is a tell-tale sign that the project will soon materialise. In fact, the actual implementation of the project will see Kabwe enter into a new future with regards to increased sanitation, in line with the Seventh National Development Plan.
SNV country project manager Kumbulani Ndhlovu said even though the majority of people are using on-site sanitation, they are using septic tanks, which are not well-lined and also poorly built pit latrines.
He explained that improving on-site sanitation is a matter of urgency and the project aims to end open defecation, improve the quality of latrines in order to improve emptying services and also undertake behaviour change campaigns to improve good practices such as hand washing, menstrual hygiene management, and ending unsafe practices regarding solid waste.
A task force has been set to prepare an action plan on what should be done by the project and also what should be done by other stakeholders. SNV believes that implementation of activities must be evidence-based and the collection of data through the baseline was collecting the actual evidence for project implementation.
And LgWSC managing director Mushany Kapusana revealed that SNV has come to help at a time when it is needed the most, adding that Central Province’s sanitation coverage stands at 42 percent against the population of over 1.4 million people, of which most are peri-urban dwellers.
“We are happy that SNV extended this project to Kabwe and we look forward to see many co-operating partners out there emulate SNV’s gesture so that we collectively see how best we can bridge the sanitation gap and attain SDG number six,” he said.
The project will help LgWSC to improve its sanitation coverage and improve its services. Using internal funds, the commercial utility in Central Province has been implementing sanitation projects in Kapiri Mposhi and Chisamba, so as to assist to raise the sanitation profile.
With the help of other co-operating partners, LgWSC remains optimistic that so much will be accomplished in terms of improving sanitation services.
“Currently, LgWSC is piloting Eazi-flush toilets in selected peri-urban areas within Kabwe with the aim to improve sanitation among the poor communities, and we appreciate the fact that SNV has come on board to help us do more on sanitation,” Mr Kapusana said.
LgWSC, Kabwe Municipal Council and SNV have since pledged to collaborate on many fronts. The Chambeshi-Lukanga Sanitation Project will also focus on implementing a behaviour change communication campaign aimed at improving safety practices, enforcement of regulation and capacity building for the council.
The author is a communications officer at Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited.
Analysis: LOUIS MWAPE