Approximately, one third of the population does not have access to clean and safe water, while more than half lacks access to proper sanitation facilities.
Despite significant progress recorded on water supply and access over the past 50 years since Zambia got its independence, some parts of the country are yet to appreciate the changes.
Katete District in Eastern Province is one district that is still faced with water challenges where 851 people have access to piped water against the total population of more than 20,000 in the coverage area of water supply.
More than half the population of the district still access water from boreholes, shallow wells and streams which are seasonally dry.
Due to poor water reticulation, the residents of Katete are also faced with poor sanitation.
Half of the district population uses pit latrines, while almost 80 per cent depend on underground water.
Some communities in rural parts of the district share water sources with animals and this water is in most cases contaminated, thereby posing a health risk to such communities.
These water points are also used for washing dishes, clothes and drinking.
One may wonder how people have endured this despite the country enjoying 50 years of independence.
Despite being near the boma, villages such as Malata, Musale Chohka have continued to share water sources with domestic animals.
In the urban setting, densely populated communities in township such as Chibolya, Mayadi, Soweto, PHI and Luangwa depend on ground water and share pit latrines which are usually in close to each other.
The communities that receive piped water only have access four hours daily, this supply is not adequate to support sanitation and good hygiene
Thankfully, the Government with support from the German government has embarked on a K31.5 million project to construct a water dam and treatment plant to improve access to safe and clean water.
Katete Council secretary Wamulume Aoongola is excited that the district is headed for development with improved water and sanitation.
“I’m hopeful that, with improved access to safe and clean drinking water, the district will have improved sanitation as people will be encouraged to construct waterborne lavatories,” said Mr Aongola.
He explained that some schools in the district were built with no water sources and pupils had to use the bush to answer the call of nature in some cases.
The move by Government to construct a dam to improve access to water has also excited residents who are eager to receive piped water for the first time since independence
Mr Aoongola notes that the dam construction has also created employment for the local people who are currently working at the construction site. The residents who have had no piped water since independence can’t wait to see this come true.
“For most of us that have lived long here, we have accepted the state of affairs because we cannot understand why water utility companies that the district has had have failed to supply water to most parts of the district,” says Mateo Mwanza of Chibolya Township.
“The improved water supply will also help the women who were in some cases battered in the villages and nearby townships for taking long when they went to draw water because they walked long distances to access water,” he says.
Mr Mwanza explains that women were meant to wait at water points whenever the water table was low.
For the health sector in the district, the construction of a borehole has been described as a shot in the arm.
District medical officer Victor Sichone says the construction of the water dam and treatment of water will help bring about improved sanitation and hygiene.
Dr Sichone said Katete District has been known for recording high numbers of diarrhoea diseases because a number of people do not have adequate access to water in some seasons of the year.
He observed that people find it difficult to take precautions such as washing of hands after using the toilet and washing fruits before eating because they have to save the water.
He explains that the district records high cases of dysentery because people still share water points with animals.
Dr Sichone expressed hope that once the dam is completed people will have access to piped water, saying the district is likely to see a reduction on water related diseases.
He states that development cannot take place in a place where people are sick, hence the need to ensure that people were provided with the basic necessities such as water.
Dr Sichone also appealed to the Government to consider investing in the water testing and sampling machinery to ensure that people are supplied with safe drinking water at all times.
He said currently the district has no effective machinery to test water samples.
As for the Eastern Water and Sewerage Company the company in charge of supplying water to Katete District, this situation has been going on because of various reasons.
Eastern Water and Sewerage Company managing director Wamuwi Changani states that the company would ensure that Zambia meets its commitment to the Millennium Development goal on Water and sanitation.
Mr Changani, however, stated that Katete District has been seemingly slow on in improving water supply because of the poor state of equipment and machinery.
“When we took over from the local council Eastern Water and Sewerage found most of the equipment in water reticulation completely run down, so we started rehabilitating. We were putting up a new water system because all the machinery and equipment was absolute” said Mr Chingani.
He further accuses the former utility companies of neglecting its operations, thereby creating a situation that made it impossible for most parts of the district to have access to safe and clean water.
“The major challenge in water production for the district has been the unreliable ground water resources that the district has been using, you must understand that Katete District can only survive on surface water and not ground water” said Mr Changani.
He said it is against this background that the water utility company is only able to supply water to a few areas and for a limited period of time.
Mr Changani states that his company is unable to supply water for a period exceeding five hours because it has to trap ground water for more hours in order to meet demand.
“The major problem is that Katete District does not have sufficient water underground, this is according to the finding that the consultants on water found in 2005 to 2006 when search was done to find out why the district had continued to have water problems despite government and other partners sinking boreholes in some areas.” said Chingani.
The director observes that the current production levels cannot meet demand for water in Katete.
He points out that Eastern Water and Sewerage will soon extend its supply to Katete Prison camp, KDC stores, Riverside, Mountain View,
Mayadi, Chibolya, Soweto, New Ibex and PHI once the construction of the dam is completed.
Once the construction of the dam is completed, the people of Katete will have adequate access to clean and safe water as access to water is a right and not a privilege.-ZANIS.