Mackenzie: Township of shallow wells
By GETHSEMANE MWIZABI -
MACKENZIE is a community of shallow wells.
The settlement is sandwiched between Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport and Itawa residential area.
Crimson mad brick pint sized houses greet you when you enter the settlement.
Mackenzie is another nightmare as far as clean water and proper sanitation is concerned.
It is common knowledge what health dangers lie with shallow wells; more so that they are dug right next to pit latrines, of which some of them are in a state of collapse.
A couple of years ago, the ministry of Health in collaboration with Ndola City Council (NCC) embarked on a exercise of taking water samples from all the wells for testing and the results of the tests showed that most of them were contaminated.
This led to NCC burying all the contaminated wells.
But shallow wells do not exist for nothing in this community.
They are a source of water, for an 81-year-old settlement, where clean water and sanitation are a huge scandal.
Children dressed in tattered clothing jump up and run around the place barefoot.
Life goes on and each day that passes by presents some challenges for the community.
Imagine a compressed community of some 8,000 people with three kiosks as a main source of clean water.
There is a just one bore hole, located near the airport fence and children troop there every time to play and draw water in huge containers.
Of the three kiosks that Kafubu Water and Sewerage Company put up in the community, only one has water dripping from it.
The other two, are dry like on a hot summer day.
The functioning kiosk has its own challenges too.
Water does not drip from it that often. It is rationed.
It is no wonder, nearly every household has a shallow well to itself.
“Clean water here is a nightmare. We are used to drinking this kind of water,” says Bridget Kasongo, 32-year-old mother of four.
Access to clean water and adequate sanitation are critical in tackling factors related to child mortality and survival, especially given the prevalence of diarrhoea and waterborne diseases and the role of sanitary health practices in preventative and sustainable responses.
Diarrhoea is a major cause of childhood illnesses and cholera has become an annual threat in both urban and rural areas due to recurrent flooding.
Mackenzie settlement is part of an estimated 4.8 million Zambians who live without access to clean water and 6.6 million lack access to sanitation.
In Zambia, more than one third of the population does not have access to clean water and more than half lack access to proper sanitation facilities, as the case is in Mackenzie.
There is no doubt that access to safe quality and adequate water and sanitation services is the foundation for the fulfillment of human basic needs and could contribute effectively to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
KWSC says the water challenges in Mackenzie, were as a result of the rehabilitation works of the water utility’s southern treatment plant.
Both sewerage manager Bernard Phiri and water distribution manager Rabson Ngulube acknowledged the water and sanitation challenges of the community, saying as soon as the up-grading of the treatment was done, all the water kiosks would be operational.
Mr Phiri said water woes in community were historical, saying the area was an unplanned settlement.
“We put kiosks in the area but sanitation remains a challenge. The area is an unplanned settlement,” says Mr Phiri.
In Mackenzie, not every household has a pit latrine, which is why lots of people go to an open space to answer the call of nature no matter what time of the day it is.
You could only guess; the open space is a sorry sight.
Chickens, dogs and goats also crowd the place full of human excreta.
“We need help here. It’s worse in the rainy season,” says Joseph Mutale, a resident.
The settlement, was founded in 1932 by a South African man of Scottish background, whose name was Jim Mackenzie.
He came to Ndola to start a project of making bricks which were sold to the surrounding communities like Itawa, Kansenshi and Kitwe.
He passed away in 1990.
When Mr Mackenzie began his project, there were only 20 houses in this community.
According to his plan, he wanted to build modern houses in the whole Copperbelt.
However in 1962 Mr Mackenzie left because he saw that his family was in danger because some of the non-Africans in the area were being killed during the liberation movement that had started in Northern Rhodesia as the native Africans wanted to liberate themselves from their colonial masters.
He also thought that he would lose his business because he was not an African.
After Zambia gained independence, Government did not recognise Mackenzie Township and declared that the people in the township were illegal squatters.
And in 1985, Government wanted to demolish the houses and move people out of the area.
But Churches and civic organisations rose up to defend the community and the issue was taken to the courts of law for adjudication.
Government’s reason for wanting to demolish the community was that it was too close to the airport.
The defence asked Government where they planned to relocate the people and they did not have convincing answer so the court dismissed the case.
Today about 8,000 people live in this community, and it is one of the poorest communities in Zambia according to records available.
The houses are mostly made from mud sanitation is poor and there is no electricity.
The infrastructure in the community is also in a bad state and needs to be seriously upgraded.
On plansto upgrade the area, NCC public relations manager Roy Kuseka could not give specifics on when the exercise would commence.
“It is going to take a lot of work and money to reorganise the whole place.
Currently, there are no roads and other social amenities in the area,” he said.
Ultimately, Mackenzie is a victim of urbanisation.
As a result of urbanisation, clean water is becoming scarce because of population growth, changes in life styles, economic development, pollution and climate change.
The growing pressure on water resources creates potential competition between different users making it more difficult to manage water in a sustainable and equitable manner,
Sadly, it is becoming apparent that most countries Zambia included will not meet the MDG on water supply and sanitation as inadequate access to water and sanitation impacts more on children under five causing deaths.
It is thus, crucial that efforts to deal adequately with providing clean drinking water and sanitation are enhanced.
Water remains the key development challenge for countries like Zambia that are striving to move from a low income to middle income status.
For now, Mackenzie remains a tale of shallow wells.