ARTHUR MWANSA, Monze
POOR access to safe and clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities can result in terrible human and economic costs, most notably for women, girls and people with disabilities in rural areas.
A recent media visit to WaterAid Zambia supported projects in Monze, Gwembe and Kazungula districts in Southern province is an experience deserving acclamation by all Zambians who respect and uphold the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The CRPD adopts a broad categorisation of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
â€œLife before was very difficult for me, especially that I am incapacitated, I used my hands to crawl to the nearest bush to defecate or help myself.
Now that we have sanitation facilities like this one I no longer have to crawl to the, bush, instead I use my wheelchair to access the lavatory or bathroom which has been constructed with the support of WaterAid Zambia,â€Â these were words of Robison Siamalambo, 52 , one of the beneficiaries living with a disability in Gwembe district.
Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities focuses on the right of persons with disabilities â€œto an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families; this includes State parties, duty to ensure equal access to clean water servicesâ€.
Up to 499,972 pounds (approximately K4 million) has so far been spent to implement water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in Monze, Gwembe and Kazungula districts.
WaterAid Zambia with the financial support from Big Lottery Fund (BLF) has demonstrated that a safe and sustainable water supply, basic sanitation and good hygiene are fundamental for a healthy, productive and dignified life, especially for the rural population.
Every year, the BLF gives out millions of pounds from the National Lottery towards good causes. The money goes to community groups and projects that improve health, education and the environment.
In Nkandela village in Monze, Goodson Bumba the chairperson for the water, sanitation and hygiene education committee is thrilled that 42 households and 280 villagers have so far benefited from the modern water point facility that has been created in the area.
It is a well-known fact that the lack of access to safe water and sanitation facilities therefore affects women and girls most acutely.
Monze Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) Zambia champion Shepard Maambo shares â€œWe are pleased that with the coming of this water point facility our women and girls no longer walk long distances to fetch for the commodity.
In the past most of our school going children, especially girls spent more time looking for water instead of being in class, others risked being raped. We are content that we now have the commodity within our reachâ€.
Gwembe district council secretary Dewine Kaoma says the implementation of the water, hygiene and sanitation projects in the district by WaterAid Zambia has resulted in 45 percent of the community members having access to water supply and sanitation, and also having the primary responsibility of maintaining a clean home environment.
Chronic diarrhoeal diseases debilitate victims and, coupled with malnutrition, induce a negative spiral into poverty. The productive activities of poor rural people, such as schooling and farming, are severely restricted by ill health from water- and excreta-related disease, as well as by the time and energy spent fetching water
â€œAs you might be aware, we are located in the valley and most of our rivers are perennial and once it rains, the water runs into the lake living scarce water bodies for people or animals to depend on. This makes our settlements very difficult,â€
The local authority in Gwembe has also taken a proactive approach by sensitising community members on the importance of maintaining a clean and safe environment.
To date, the initiative has served over12, 000 households out of total number of 50, 000 households in Gwembe district alone.
â€œWe want this partnership with WaterAid Zambia and BLF to continue. At the moment, the project is only operational in four wards in the Gwembe, hence the need to extend to the rest of the district, the need is quite immense,â€ Mr Kaoma said.
Mr Kaoma is happy that WaterAid Zambia is supplementing Governmentâ€™s efforts in ensuring that people, especially in rural areas have easy access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation services.
Mr Kaoma further observed â€œBefore the project, people used to make aquifers within the rivers to preserve the water, unfortunately this water is usually dirty because most of it is stagnant water; this situation usually exposes us to a lot diseases.
We are however, happy that the sinking of boles has seen almost each household having easy access to waterâ€.
A grade seven pupil at Chabalanda primary school in Kazungula district has also acclaimed WaterAid Zambia for improving hygiene standards at the school, especially for the girl child.
Euphraser Siachitema, 13 said the introduction of improved hygiene standards at the school has also resulted in the restoration of a dignified lifestyle for girls.
â€œOn behalf of my fellow pupils I would like to thank the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) and WaterAid Zambia for the Job well done.
In the past, it was difficult for the girlchild to have easy access to improved hygiene. We really appreciate the beautiful lavatory which has been constructed at the school. We are grateful to WaterAid Zambia for restoring the dignity of the girl child at Chabalanda primary school,â€ Euphraser said.
School acting headteacher Liswaniso Liswaniso called on Government to supplement WaterAid Zambiaâ€™s efforts of uplifting hygiene standards in most rural schools and communities.
Ms Liswaniso said most schools in rural areas lack improved hygiene standards, hence making it prone to outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases, especially in the rainy season.
She said this during a WaterAid Zambia organised media tour to the school recently. Water Aid Zambia has constructed a lavatory at a total cost of K15, 000 at the school.
Although the school accommodates over 300 pupils, the constructed lavatory can only cater for 90 pupils, mostly girls.
â€œWe thank WaterAid Zambia for their gesture as it will go a long way in helping our girl children in attaining decent education,â€ she said.
WaterAid Kanzungula project officer Nyambe Mufalali said the move to construct a lavatory at the school was aimed at providing improved hygiene for the pupils.
Mr Mufalali says the essence of the school-led sanitation campaigns was aimed at preparing schools to be agents of triggering hygiene related behaviour change in the communities.
â€œWe have had no problems working with the local people here, we are happy to mention that we have worked well with traditional leaders in ensuring that this project comes to fruition.
We are happy to mention that the school authorities have been co-operative, although the lavatory will only cater for about 90 pupils,â€ Mr Mufalali said.
WaterAid Zambia is committed to put up 81 water points in Monze, Gwembe and Kazungula districts. So far, 44 bore holes have been sunk, with 51 boresholes expected to be done by the end of September this year.
The three year WaterAid Zambia water, hygiene and sanitation project started in November 2013 and is expected to end in October 2016.
ARTHUR MWANSA, Monze