Rapid urban population growth has created unprecedented challenges, among which water and sanitation provision have been the most pressing and painfully felt when lacking.
Two main challenges related to water are affecting the sustainability of human urban settlements; the lack of access to safe water and sanitary facilities.
These problems have enormous consequences on human health and well-being, safety, the environment, economic growth and development.
The lack of sanitation facilities leads to health issues such as dysentery and cholera outbreaks.
The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal number six is about clean water and sanitation for all.
To reach universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, the current rates of progress would need to increase fourfold.
Because most of the houses in urban areas were constructed without formal planning, a lot of the houses in some of Zambia’s townships have no space for digging pit latrines which are a common feature in most sprawling townships.
It is in this regard that the government, through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) and Nkana Water Supply and Sanitation Company (NWSSC), has embarked on a project to construct 2,400 waterborne lavatories in some of Kitwe’s highly-populated areas.
The programme commenced after President Hakainde Hichilema, during a visit to the Copperbelt, directed authorities to ensure that sanitation challenges affecting Kwacha Constituency residents were urgently addressed.
According to information issued by the NWSSC public relations unit, construction of the waterborne lavatories has already commenced in Kwacha Township.
NWSSC says the construction of the lavatories which are for free is being done by its own employees with resources made available by the government through DMMU.
The project has elated the targeted beneficiaries and comes on the heels of another one where residents of Mulenga Township were also beneficiaries of a similar sanitation related programme.
On the Mulenga project, it was with support from Vitens Evides International and estimated to cost US$434,000.
Within that resource envelope, there was also a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASHE) component in which the NWSSC planned to train adolescent girls on menstrual health and hygiene and production of reusable sanitary wear.
The produced sanitary wear was earmarked to be distributed amongst vulnerable girls in Mulenga area.
Mulenga Township is a settlement area in Kitwe situated on the Kitwe – Ndola dual carriage way, as one exits the mining town.
At that time, Mulenga Township was serviced by NWSSC through 18 water kiosks.
Apart from the 18 kiosks, 427yard connections were counted from those households that could afford to pay the K892 household connection fee.
These house connections were made by the utility as off-takes from the water lines supplying kiosks, reducing the water availability for the kiosks because the system was not designed for yard connections capacity.
These yard connections indicated the desire of the people in the area to have house connections.
A certain proportion of households in the area were also found to rely on shallow wells as a source of water- a situation which is not ideal especially with the number of pit latrines in the area.
Based on this survey data, NWSSC submitted a water supply improvement project proposal to Vitens Evides International later in the year 2019.
Apart from improving the water supply, NWSSC has also embarked on construction of Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrines in low income areas.
The project commenced in 2014 under Phase One of the NWSSP where 1,665 VIP lavatories were constructed in low income areas of Kamatipa, Twaiteka and Ipusukilo in Kitwe and Kalulushi Districts.
According to the utility, construction of VIP lavatories will cover residents of Ipusukilo, Twaiteka,Kamatipa and Chibote .
Women are also trained and engaged in construction of the sanitation platforms placed on the VIP toilets, in all the project areas.
As a way of empowering the local community through jobs, men in the project area are engaged as artisans used to construct the lavatories.
The output or impact will result through reduction of diarrhoea cases, control of typhoid incidences and cholera.
Increased low income households will have improved sanitation facilities while community artisans trained in construction works of toilet sub structure and super structure will have more resources at household levels.
On the other hand, women empowerment through training in sanitation platform casting, and livelihood improvement through payment for san-plat making will be able to come up with start-up businesses.
In mining townships where some residents have limited access to lavatories, sanitation projects will improve self-esteem and dignity in communities.
The projects will also result in inclusive sanitation for female-headed households, and vulnerable and differently-abled persons.