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Clean water and sanitation for Zambia

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Access to clean water and adequate sanitation are critical for tackling child mortality in Africa, especially given the prevalence of diarrhea and waterborne diseases in many countries.

In Zambia, diarrhea is one of the major causes of childhood illnesses. It is estimated that 4.8 million Zambians live without access to clean water, and 6.6 million lack access to sanitation. Water, sanitation and hygiene factors are responsible for 11.4 percent of all deaths in Zambia.

According to the 2013 Millennium Development Goals progress report, the proportion of the Zambian population without access to an improved water source has decreased from 51 percent in 1990 to 36.9 percent in 2010. In urban areas, however, the proportion has worsened, from 11.8 percent in 2006 to 15.3 percent in 2010. This increase is partly attributed to rapid urbanization and the growth of slums and unplanned settlements.

The proportion of the population without access to improved sanitation facilities is not getting any better. On the contrary, it worsened from 26 percent in 1991 to 67.3 percent in 2010, which means that Zambia will not able to meet the MDG target of 13 percent by 2015.

This trend is partly explained by the increase in informal human settlements without basic facilities, the high cost of infrastructure, and the low returns to these investments for the private sector, especially in rural areas. Public engagement and state action are of paramount importance in this area. Massive infrastructure investments and social campaigns on healthy sanitary behaviour can turn around this trend.

Habitat for Humanity Zambia sees water and sanitation projects as a priority. Its programs seek to put in place a community-driven supply of clean water and proper sanitation through the following measures:

  • Conducting baseline surveys of the proposed areas for sanitation facilities for boys and girls.
  • Designing, tendering and installing water points and sanitation facilities in the communities.
  • Training community members on the importance of proper water and sanitation.
  • Designing and constructing drainage models that can improve sanitation and reduce flooding.