MALUMO SILUMESI, Kabwe
IN THE absence of conventional toilets, people in unplanned townships in Kabwe depend on pit latrines.
However, most of the latrines, sitting close to wells and houses, do not meet the minimum health standards, therefore posing a risk to the health of users.
The facilities, which are poorly built and not ventilated, are normally used by 20 to 30 people per unit.
With such large numbers of users, most pit latrines are prone to bacterial contamination and become a conduit for diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera.
Jackson Mofya, 65, a Makululu resident, is not happy with the state of pit latrines in the township.
Mr Mofya said people in peri-urban areas deserve better sanitation services like their colleagues in formal townships.
“Sanitation in our area is a source of worry. We don’t have flush toilets, and as residents, we have no choice but to use dirty toilets,” he said.
Mr Mofya said diarrhoeal diseases are common in Makululu because of poor sanitation.
He said with cholera threatening public health in Zambia, it was about time the Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company (LgWSC) started providing sanitation services in unplanned settlements of Kabwe.
Statistics indicate that 90 percent of people in unplanned communities in the district such as Makululu, Katondo, Kawama, Nakoli, Waya, and C Gate rely on pit latrines to answer the call of nature.
Aware of the challenges of poor sanitation in informal settlements in Kabwe, LgWSC has partnered with a South African firm, Envirosan Sanitation Solutions to build pour flush toilets in peri-urban areas.
A pour flush toilet is designed like a normal flush toilet except the user needs to pour water in the toilet pan. Who Health Organisation guidelines say pour flash toilets use a pit for the disposal of excreta and has a special pan cast in the floor slab and provides a water seal of 20-30 millimeters. This prevents bad odour from filtering around the toilet room or environment. The guidelines further state that the pit may be below or offset from the shelter, allowing for decanting when it is full.
“The advantage of a pour flush toilet are that there are no fly or smell problems, making these latrines hygienic and pleasant to use, and maintenance is relatively straightforward,” WHO guidelines read.
The National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) has set a target of 80 percent for water utility firms to provide sanitation coverage in their respective areas of operation.
LgWSC has so far achieved 43 percent of this target.
Apart from that, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number six commits state parties to “ensure access to water and sanitation for all”.
Goal number six also emphasises that sanitation facilities should be well lit and ventilated, and easy to clean. Further, the facilities should be comfortable, convenient and enjoyable to use and disease-free.
Therefore, if LgWSC is to meet the NWASCO target and help Zambia to achieve SDG six, the firm needs to find a lasting solution to the problem of water and sanitation in Kabwe.
Through partnership with Envirosan Sanitation Solutions, LgWSC has embarked on erecting pour flush toilets in communities that lack clean and disease-free toilets.
One of the beneficiary communities is Makululu where the project was launched at Kamanda Market.
LgWSC technical operations manager Nicholas Mwape said pour flush toilets will help the firm to provide sanitation services in unplanned townships.
“There is need to do away with pit latrines in peri-urban areas because they are responsible for the spread of water borne diseases,” Mr Mwape said.
The installation of pour flush toilets, according to Mr Mwape, will significantly contribute to improving sanitation in peri-urban areas.
Mr Mwape said LgWSC has managed 43 percent coverage of water and sanitation services in Kabwe.
The advantage of pour flush toilets is that they are environmentally friendly and pose no threat to underground water contamination.
The LgWSC is hopeful that the construction of these toilets in informal settlements will reduce the outbreak of waterborne diseases.
“We want this initiative be to be extended to other parts of the province. But we are constrained by limited resources. As Lukanga, we are requesting Government to come on board,” Mr Mwape said.
Envirosan Sanitation Solutions says it is equal to the task of providing sanitation services in peri-urban areas where residents depend on pit latrines.
Managing director Brian Lewis was saddened that residents of Makululu have no access to decent toilets.
“These toilets are relatively cheap, and people can only use two litres of water to flush the toilet,” Mr Lewis said. “There are better than conventional toilets.”
He said the pour flush toilet technology has been tried and tested in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa and users are happy with the results.
“Countries like South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria have tried this technology, it has satisfied them. It is prudent that Zambia, which has been struggling with sanitation can implement it,” Mr Lewis said.
Envirosan Sanitation Solutions has partnered with SINACO Consultant Zambia Limited in implementing the project.
SINACO Consultant Zambia Limited managing director Maseka Lukama said access to good sanitation, guarantees good health and productivity in a nation.
Mr Lukama also observed that disease outbreaks owing to poor sanitation can create a financial burden for the health care system.
He said the pour flush toilet initiative is a progressive project and Government should roll it out to other parts of the country in need of clean and safe toilets.
Elizabeth Phiri, 55, of Katondo township, is happy that LgWSC is building pour flush toilets in her community.
“I don’t remember when I last used this kind of toilet (flush toilet), maybe when I visited my younger sister in Kitwe. But what I can say is that this project is long over-due,” Ms Phiri said.