Archive for January, 2012

January 30, 2012

Zambia: Tribulations and triumphs of Mines Privatization

Newton Sibanda
January 30, 2012

The privatization of the mines has dealt a huge blow to residents of former mine townships that practically depended on the mining conglomerate for basic services such as water and sanitation.

Prior to the privatization of the mines, the mining conglomerate-Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) maintained water and sanitation facilities in mining townships.

But following privatization, the facilities have not been maintained. In fact, they are not only in a state of disrepair, but have also been subjected to wanton vandalism.

In Kitwe’s sprawling Wusakile Township, the problem of sanitation is so serious that the township has earned itself a notorious vernacular unprintable, in reference to the indiscriminate disposal of human waste.

A makeshift bathroom. Few people in developing countries are familiar with the dangerous health risks their families face due to their poor sanitary facilities.

Dilapidated infrastructures without roofs and doors, complete with maggots are very much part of the communal ablution blocks, commonly known as ichi pub, a corruption for public toilets.

This is what residents of this township have to do with, which not only makes them vulnerable to water borne diseases but also strips them of their dignity.

Left with no option, they squat in the near makeshift toilets even in the glare of daylight and step on maggots spread around the ablution blocks.

Tina Sikombe of Wusakile B2 section recalls the good old days when ZCCM maintained the ablution blocks in the former mine township.
Mrs Sikombe, whose husband is self-employed, now has endured the poor sanitary conditions.

“We have a water problem, so children fail to go into the communal toilets and just squat outside. That is why you can see maggots all over,” she says.

But that is not all. The residents have a litany of problems, including being deprived of their dignity as they are reduced to using dilapidated ablutions.

“We have no option but to use what is available to us. We just put our hands on the door way and the children can see that there is an adult in the toilet,” Mrs Sikombe says.

“Sometimes, we just cough to alert whoever is coming or just cover our heads with chitenge material. This is so embarrassing,” she said.

Mrs Sikombe is not alone in this predicament. Christine Kalunga is chairperson of Wusakile B2 neighborhood group and acknowledges the poor water and sanitation conditions in the township.

“The water pipes are blocked, so we have to walk long distances to draw water from B4 section,” Mrs Kalunga, whose husband is a miner, says.

But she is even more concerned about the poor sanitation.
“Ablution blocks were working well during the ZCCM days but they have been vandalized. There is no water, no roof and no doors,” Mrs. Kalunga says.

“But these are the ablution blocks we have to use and we have big children who know what is going on. It is really embarrassing,” she says.

Mrs Kalunga says women are at the risk of being sexually assaulted as they go out to answer the call of nature, especially in the night.

She says sometimes, men waylay the women using the ablution blocks in the night.

The sanitation woes have even given rise to superstition. Mrs. Kalunga says she saw a ghost while she was in the toilet.
“I ran with pants on my knees,” she says.

But the plight of Mrs. Kalunga and others may soon be history, thanks to Mopani Copper Mines Plc which completed the first phase of its Sanitation Infrastructure project in Wusakile Township last year and announced the start of the second phase of construction.

The project, which involved the construction of 1,379 sanitation units in collaboration with the Zambian Government and Nkana Water and Sewerage Company, commenced in April last year. Each unit consists of a toilet, a shower and a washing basin.

In addition to the sanitation units, Mopani constructed 15.7 kilometers of sewer lines and laid 31.5 kilometers of fresh water pipes. These new facilities and sewer/water networks were constructed at a cost of US$3 million (K15 billion) to service the sanitation infrastructure, which will benefit residents who will now have access to better and more hygienic toilets, showers and clean drinking water.

With the first phase of the project completed on October 15 last year, Mopani has handed over the facilities to Nkana Water and Sewerage Company who have, in turn, handed them over to individual households.

The second phase of the project, which covers two sections in Wusakile township, will have a further total of 288 sanitation units at an estimated cost of US$800,000 (K4 billion).
These works commenced in October last year.

The second phase of construction will bring the total number of units provided by Mopani to 1,667.

Danny Callow, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mopani Copper Mines, says: “We remain committed to our resolve to give back to the community in areas we operate from, and, more so, to enhance health. Furthermore, we support the Government’s policy to improve the general well-being of all Zambians”.

“The completion of the second phase will reduce the incidence of typhoid fever in Wusakile township. The recurrence of typhoid had to be tackled: the community was becoming ill due to the continued use of dilapidated communal toilets which were meant for fewer people than the current number of people using them. This will now be a thing of the past,” he said.

Mercy Mwansa, a widow of Wusakile B4 section is among those who have already benefited from Mopani’s generosity.

Mrs Mwansa, whose husband was a miner, recalls all the problems they encountered before Mopani built the sanitation units.
“We were using communal toilets, without doors. For the bathroom, we were forced to improvise,” she says.

“It was a long and agonizing journey to the ablution, so it was a problem when you have diarrhea. We would even queue with children and in-laws, but now we have some dignity.”

The downside, however, is theft and lack of water.

Kitwe Mines shaft in Wusakile

Cindy Mwansa, a hairdresser of Wusakile Section B4 recalls the prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases before Mopani built the sanitation units.

“There were a lot of waterborne diseases but that is no more, and we now have some dignity,” says Mrs. Mwansa, a mother of five.
“The only problem is theft, so we have removed the cistern and we just pour water manually,” she says.

Her joy is shared by Florence Mwelwa.

“We would have died from diarrhoeal diseases because those ablution blocks were very unhygienic,” Mrs. Mwelwa said.

She is among the few whose households have been spared from the theft of sanitation equipment.

“I don’t know how we have survived. We are among the few,” she says.
Wusakile councilor Francis Miti says the Mopani project is a relief and will help prevent the recurrence of cholera and typhoid.

“I would like to thank Mopani for its gesture to the residents of Wusakile. Now typhoid and cholera will be history,” Mr. Miti, who is also Kitwe deputy mayor, said.

Wusakile member of parliament (MP) Richard Musukwa, while commending Mopani, cautioned the residents against vandalism.

“It is regrettable that while partners like Mopani have contributed significant financial resources to improve sanitation, vandalism has taken a high toll.

Residents of Wusakile should rise to the challenge to fight vandalism,” said Mr. Musukwa, who is also deputy minister of Mines and Natural Resources.

“The step taken by Mopani to upgrade sanitation facilities is commendable, but we need to encourage responsibility among residents, to safeguard these facilities,” he said.

Until she benefits from the benevolence of Mopani Copper Mines, Mrs. Sikombe will always reminisce the past and look to the future with a mixture of despair and hope.

For Mrs. Sikombe and others, the past represents the good old days while the present is a stark reminder of some harsh realities of life.

January 27, 2012

Zambia: Precious Water Flows in Kabushi Township

Violet Mengo
January 27, 2012

Despite the challenges associated with efforts to improve sanitation in Zambia, functioning communal toilets and taps are in sight in Ndola’s Kabushi Township following the completion of a sanitation project that will enhance hygiene for the residents. The project has brought dignity to the residents whose lives were once at risk of disease. The people can now boast of safe clean water and toilets as VIOLET MENGO reports.

IRENE Makoni, a mother of five, lost two of her children to diarrhoea. She attributes the death of her children to poor sanitation in Kabushi Township.

She admits that doctors had advised her to observe hygiene when her children were admitted to the hospital. Their illness was characterized by vomiting, fever and diarrhoea.

Another Kabushi resident, Joseph Nyirongo, has also been a victim of diarrhoea as a result of poor sanitation.

Makoni and Nyirongo are among thousands of Kabushi residents who had been living in poor sanitary conditions. Their communal flash toilets were dilapidated and this forced many family members to wake up at the crack of dawn to fetch water for cleaning their toilets.

In several communities in Africa, in order to get water, many women and children walk for hours a day, lining up to collect water from the few public taps and wells that aren't dry

Often, residents had to pay K5,000 for a 20-litre container of water, which made it hard for them to meet other basic needs. Most of the residents could not afford even a small amount to pay for water.
“We used to spend eight hours a day fetching water for the communal toilets we were using before they were closed,” Joseph Nyirongo says.

The communal toilets in Kabushi were closed by health authorities because they posed health hazards. The toilets designed decades ago, had collapsed forcing many residents to answer to the call of nature in nearby bushes.

To some, the only option was to dig pit-latrines which eventually also became full and posed a health hazard.

Dry human waste could be seen at the doorsteps of the communal toilets in the city’s high density township.

However, the situation is no longer the same. The National Water and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) through its basket fund-Devolution Trust Fund (DTF)- provided finances for the construction of new toilets in the township.

The project, which is now complete, will help in reducing the disease burden in the area.
Approximately K4 billion Kwacha was provided for the construction of the toilets and provision of water supply.

“The lack of sanitation for Kabushi residents was not just uncomfortable – it was dangerous. Without designated toilets and bathing areas, the risk of disease grew as existing water sources and the surrounding environment became contaminated,” Gonga says.

The long awaited sanitation project will be commissioned soon. It will allow people access to water supply and clean and safe toilets.

The sanitation project involved the construction of sewerage network, domestic reactors for waste water and treatment and the construction of household toilets.

DTF is Government basket fund that provides money to water utilities across the country to improve their service delivery.

Apart from the sanitation project, people in the community have been educated on hygiene and disease prevention, waste management and general cleanliness.

“We have seen our health and cleanliness improve,” says Emmanuel Bwalya. “We are sure that with the opening of the toilets, we will no longer experience diseases as was the case before.”
The Government has long recognized the importance of this basic human right and its direct impact on the quality of life. Through DTF, Government has invested huge amounts of money to better sanitation conditions in Zambia.

The lack of sanitation has a serious impact on health and social development, especially for children.
“By improving access to safe water and sanitation, the project will improve the lives of thousands and help reduce poverty levels and medical expenses,” Kafubu Water and Sewerage Company managing director Ian Banda says.

Water is a precious resource

Banda says the project will also save women and children from spending much time fetching water.
The completion of the sanitation project in Ndola is testimony of Government’s efforts to protect people from diseases.

Globally, sanitation still remains a challenge. Of the 2.5 billion people around the globe without access to sanitation, 75 percent live in Asia and Africa.

Health experts say the absence of functioning toilets provides a springboard for the spread of diseases.
The United Nations Development Programme says a staggering two million tonnes of human waste is deposited in water courses each day across the world and half the population of the developing world is exposed to polluted water that causes disease.

It is no secret that investments in sanitation have, for decades, lagged behind investments in water supply.

January 9, 2012

Devoid of words. A story of poor latrines told in pictures

Fredrick Mugira
January 09, 2012

Lack of access to safe water and proper sanitation remain critical public health issues worldwide.

Up to 2.6 billion people live without access to effective latrines on the planet earth. This contributes to the prevalent incidence of water-related diseases, which kill a child every 15 seconds.

Clean water and sanitation are essential elements of human development and poverty alleviation, and constitute an indispensable component of primary health care.

In this story, we take you to the southwestern region of Uganda to see for yourself the state of latrines in the poor communities there.

As you will discover in the pictures, families there build dry pit latrines close to their homes. The exact design varies according to local conditions. Some are household latrines, some are communal.

In this story, you will also realize the use of unimproved pit latrines, poor conditions accompanied by bad smells and overflows, and conducive breeding grounds for mosquitoes and flies. This contributes to the widespread incidences of open defecation as people prefer bushes to such latrines.

Do not be surprised to learn that this latrine in Bushenyi district is closed. The torn sack you see there is the latrine’s door.

Any strong wind can easily blow away this latrine in Mwizi Mbarara district. On top of having broken poles inside, a banana tree fell on it weakening it further. Its floor is made of soft wood which can easily break down.

The use of a piece of sack as a door on latrines is common in the region

Even this latrine in Kashari Mbarara has a piece of a sack on its entrance as a door. The latrine can easily be swept away or filled by flood waters

This latrine in Biharwe Mbarara district had no door. It is free entry and exit.

This four stance latrine belongs to a public school in Kashari Mbarara. Instead of toilet papers, pupils use leaves

This six stance latrine also belongs to a public primary school in Kashari Mbarara.

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