Access to potable water and sanitation facilities in a remote community in Zambia's drought-prone Southern province has markedly improved the lives of residents.
For years people of rural Chibizyi walked long distances in search of water, often drawing it from unsafe shallow wells and perennial streams. In the absence of adequate sanitation facilities, they used the surrounding bush for human waste disposal, which led to regular outbreaks of waterborne diseases.
Now a new community-driven water and sanitation project has brought nine boreholes and 40 Ventilated Improved Pit-latrines (VIPs) to the Chibizyi community, who were able to get the project off the ground with the help of the Zambia Social Investment Fund (ZAMSIF).
Before the project, the nearest source of clean water was a borehole 17 kilometres away - a four-hour walk by women and girls to draw household water.
Failing that, they made use of local wells and streams. "People used to have bilharzia and diarrhoea ... There was a real problem here concerning water," said headman Habeenzu of the Habeenzu village in Chibizyi. "Some used to go with ox-carts to draw water. It really disturbed productivity, because people spent time in search of water instead of clearing fields or harvesting," he explained.
Another resident, Jane Himagwali, said she felt "liberated" with clean water less than a kilometre away. "I used to wake up very early to draw water and return late in the evening to find children crying of thirst. I am now drawing water within the vicinity and I am very grateful. We used to share drinking water with animals."
The Chibizyi water and sanitation project was implemented under ZAMSIF's Community Investment Fund (CIF), which empowers local communities by financing projects identified, implemented, managed, operated and maintained by the communities themselves.
The Chibizyi community applied for ZAMSIF assistance in December 2003, and implemented the project with guidance from the district council.
"Districts have poverty reduction strategies, and water and sanitation is a priority in this district ... knowing that this is a drought-prone area, we were quick to respond," said Brian Nakanda, ZAMSIF regional facilitator.
The project cost Kwacha 501.8 million (US $106,324) and will benefit 4,063 members of the community. ZAMSIF put Kwacha 401.3 million (US $85,028) on the table, while the community contributed Kwacha 100.5 million (US $21,292) in the form of labour, sand and crushed stones, apart from the Kwacha 400,000 (US $8,500) raised for project administration.
The community formed water, sanitation and health education committees in each village to ensure successful implementation of the project, and moulded bricks for apron and latrine construction. "We realise that clean water alone is not enough because it will be contaminated if there is no adequate sanitation facilities. It's also government's health policy that clean water must go with good sanitation," Nkanda said.
ZAMSIF has used the project sites as centres for information sharing on HIV/AIDS, malaria control and vulnerable groups like orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). "HIV/AIDS is a cross-cutting issue for ZAMSIF, so we use the opportunity of community meetings for the project to disseminate HIV/AIDS-related information," Nakanda explained. "Communities are also expected to initiate strategies to address the impact of HIV/AIDS."
The benefits of the project have been multifaceted. For 32-year-old Brenda Mwiinga of Chitulo village, the benefits are two-fold: water-borne diseases, and having to resort to the bush for human waste disposal, will now be history. "It was embarrassing for people to be found in the bush," Mrs Mwiinga said.
The project is part of the government's poverty reduction strategy to help communities access improved social services, implemented through ZAMSIF with support from the World Bank.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions