A Constant Thirst

Published on World Pulse, by Dando, Oct 2, 2009.

Having spent her girlhood in long lines at the water pump, Zambian Voices of Our Future Correspondent, Dando Mweetwa, knows first hand what must be done in a country where only 58% of the population has access to drinkable water.

Having spent her girlhood in long lines at the water pump, Zambian Voices of Our Future Correspondent, Dando Mweetwa, knows first hand what must be done in a country where only 58% of the population has access to drinkable water.

I grew up in a land blessed with the largest water resources in all of southern Africa. Zambia is home to massive lakes and plentiful rivers. And with Victoria Falls—some of the largest waterfalls in the world—one would think that Zambia would have no problem offering adequate and safe water to its community. But access to clean water has been a problem since my country’s independence in 1964 …  

…According to the 2008 Global Corruption Report by Transparency International, 80% of health problems in developing countries can be attributed to inadequate water and sanitation, a problem that claims the lives of nearly 1.8 million children every year and leads to the loss of an estimated 443-million school days for children who are suffering from water-borne diseases.

Chlorine is sold relatively inexpensively, but the majority of Zambians live on less than half-a-dollar a day, and most would rather buy a pamela (a small plastic bag of millie meal) to feed their children than buy chlorine to purify their water. And, in rural areas, access to chlorine comes with challenges of transport and poverty.

Every year, money is allocated to the water sector but little or nothing has been implemented in poor communities to change this reality. According to Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Commission, the government workers installs the majority of boreholes on government officials’ private land, rather than making water available to the rural poor. This has lead to a number of groups creating innovative plans to address the issue. One group came up with an initiative to erect a communal tap after their community councilor refused to do so. They wrote a proposal to Care International, who funded their project. Today, the communal tap serves hundreds of people but lacks regular maintenance.

The government is the major drive of development in any country. It is only through transparency and accountability that we will see access to adequate clean water become a reality. Local and international leaders have convened to address this important issue, but monitoring and evaluations must be strictly followed to ensure that these plans are implemented. The international community, local communities, and politicians must continue to work with communities to make adequate clean water available. If only politicians would follow through on their promises, then we would see a drastic reduction in water born diseases and reduced deaths and hardship throughout Zambia and other developing nations. (full long text).

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