Are We Facing A Sanitation Crisis?
In a recent article, international journalist Adrian Bloomfield suggested that we are facing a sanitation crisis in Zambia and he’s not wrong.
Until a fortnight ago the army were still on our streets to try and combat the cholera epidemic that hit our capital. The outbreak that began last October was one of the worst we have seen in recent year, infecting 5,000 and killing 110 – according to Dr Chitalu Chilufya.
As a result, our Health minister plans on asked WHO to do more to fight the disease – but is he just passing the buck? As a nation we must not be so reliant on wealthier nations to fix our problems, our fight against Cholera must come from us if it is to be sustainable.
Schools and universities in Lusaka were forced to shut for up to six weeks earlier this year to stop cholera spreading. Soldiers sealed off bars and markets in city townships while street food, a potential cholera carrier, is still banned, depriving many of the city’s poorest of their sole livelihoods – this can’t keep happening if we’re to develop our economy and become a more prosperous nation.
It is true we’re not the only country to struggle with Cholera, Somalia and Congo have had catastrophic epidemics but they are also nations at war…what is our excuse?
Lusaka is a well organised city, in many ways far less busy than Nairobi or Lagos but we still struggle with chronic sanitation problems. Our government has not done enough to maintain hygiene practices. It’s as simple as emptying latrines and cleaning away rubbish properly. Our population has grown to 3.2 million and with that the government has not scaled up its hygiene management policies.
Human faecal matter, the principal carrier of cholera and other waterborne diseases, rapidly contaminated the drinking supply. Our pit latrines are no longer regularly emptied and overflowed in the rainy season, spilling raw sewage onto the streets of Lusaka’s townships. The city’s main sewage reservoir spills partially treated effluent onto the streets during the rains.
Whatever the international community’s response at the World Health Assembly, the our government must acknowledge its own failings and do more to improve water and sanitation infrastructure, aid workers say.
At independence in 1964, Zambia was one of Africa’s richest countries. Our people were nearly twice as wealthy as South Koreans. More than half a century later, Zambians are poorer, when inflation is taken into account, than we were in 1965.
The PF government now spends more on repaying debt than it does on education, and corruption is on the rise. Under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the government should be spending 5.9 per cent of government expenditure on giving Zambians access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene.
Instead the PF government sets aside just 0.8 per cent of its budget, much of which is then diverted to other departments.