Sylvester Williams in Lusaka, Zambia
A public health care expert in the Zambian capital Lusaka has warned of the risk of major outbreak of diseases including dysentery, cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea after maintenance work at the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) forced officials to turn off water supplies. Boniface Chisema 57, called on the approximately 50.000 affected residents in the following areas of Lusaka; Woodlands, Kabwata, Libala, Chilenje and Munyaule compound to always maintain simple hygiene rules like washing hands to avoid getting sick. For five days in early September, residents struggled to get any kind of water to cook, bath and flush their toilets. The water company has warned there will be more disruptions to the water supply in some areas of Â Lusaka that now has close to two million inhabitants as more people move there from rural areas in search of work and better living conditions.
The water shortage hit pregnant mother of four Charity Mwanza directly as she earns a meagre living collecting dirty clothes from door to door from clients which she washes for a small fee. Her business grinds to a complete halt when there is no water.
“We can’t be walking to Kabulonga and Chalala just to fetch water; the distance is too much. We don’t even have a single drop of water to drink at home so how are we going to survive?” the bemused Charity asked me. Having only attained education up to upper primary level, Charity finds it difficult to find formal employment thus her reliance on the laundry services she offers.
Inadequate Council water trucks to the rescue
The water shortage forced the Lusaka City Council to organize a small truck with a tank of water to supply badly needed water to some segments of the affected areas. The truck which appeared once or twice daily usually emptied a few minutes later with scores of people literally fighting to get a bit of life saving water to drink and cook with
At the Chilenje Market, council authorities quickly shut both the showers and toilets, a situation that did not amuse most of the traders. Peter Saka, head of hygiene services in the market said it was not only pointless to keep operating the toilets without water but it was hazardous and a threat to people’s health
The furious market traders criticized the temporary closure saying it didn’t make any sense to lock the toilets when the market was full of traders and customers who needed to answer the call of nature.
They explained that leaving their stands to go far away to answer the call of nature meant they would lose business. They wanted market authorities to find alternative sources of water during water shortages.
Â Fighting to stop frequent water cuts.
Checks at the water supply company’s treatment plant in Kafue showed that efforts were already being made to control the problem as plumbers were busy at work. One of the workers who elected to remain anonymous blamed management for not planning adequately for the water cuts. He said they did not plan adequately to resolve the myriad of problems tens of thousands of people will face without water.
The Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company has since announced another five days interruption which will affect more than ten townships in the capital later this month.
Statistics from the Water Aid website indicates over 5 million Zambians lack access to safe water and half the population has nowhere to go to the toilet. These problems have dangerous health implications for the population almost 2,000 children under five die every year from water borne diseases.