Making sanitation and hygiene a priority in Zambia


News

Diarrhoea is the third largest killer of children under the age of five in Zambia. This is especially prevalent in rural areas where less than half of all rural women and men (43%) use soap or another appropriate medium to wash their hands after relieving themselves and before cooking and eating.

Furthermore, most people in rural areas practise open defecation and the combination of these unsanitary practices spreads disease and contaminate wells and streams which people use for drinking.

“The lack of access to improved sanitation and safe water, and inadequate hand hygiene all combine to contribute to the high prevalence of diarrhoea among children under five. During recent years, Zambia has been losing 1.3% of its gross domestic product (GDP), approximately ZMW 946 Million or US$194 Million annually due to poor sanitation. Most of it, US $167 million, due to premature deaths of approximately 8,700 Zambians including 6,600 children annually due to poor sanitation and hygiene.” – Assistant Secretary Lloyd Tembo on behalf of Northern Province Permanent Secretary Hlobotha Nkunika

Diarrhoea and cholera are highly preventable and curable but still disproportionately affect marginalised groups in developing nations primarily due to unsanitary practices. SNV’s Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) programme, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), aims to address the sanitation gaps that spread such diseases. This project improves sanitation coverage through hygiene promotion activities and encourages communities to commit themselves to becoming open defecation free (ODF) through community-led total sanitation (CLTS) activities. The project will also work to improve community access to better and affordable sanitation services and products by developing local markets. All interventions are aimed at improving local governments’ capacity to steer improved sanitation and are anchored in structures that ensure sustainability and ownership.

As part of the goal to institutionalise CLTS in local government plans and activities, SNV in Zambia organised a Training of Trainers Workshop for CLTS Facilitators from 18th – 22nd August 2014 in Kasama. The objective of the workshop was to equip participants with the knowledge and skills on CLTS facilitation needed to enable effective wider rollout of CLTS activities throughout the project districts in northern Zambia. 46 participants from the project districts of Luwingu, Kasama, Mungwi and Mporokoso were present for the training. 

"The main problem is that communities do not make sanitation a priority. Water is a priority, but not sanitation. We need to trigger these communities to realise sanitation is equally important and to take the necessary steps to address it. We will achieve this by stimulating a collective sense of disgust, fear and shame among community members as they confront the crude facts about mass open defecation and its negative impacts on the entire community. Our aim is to make faeces a priority.” – Moses Mutyoka, Principal National CLTS Coach

The participants included District WASHE committee members and Council Secretaries from the four selected districts, and the Provincial Engineer of the Department of Housing and Infrastructure Development (DHID). The participants were trained in the CLTS approach methodology which includes triggering tools that stimulate communities to change their sanitation and hygiene behaviours. These tools include focus group discussions with communities in order to encourage them to talk openly about individual and communal defecation and hygiene patterns, and practical exercises that demonstrate the unhygienic impacts of poor sanitation and open defecation. By clearly demonstrating transmission patterns from faeces to food or water, a sense of disgust, fear and shame is triggered that spurs communities to change. The workshop also included field work where the trainers went to three villages and implemented what they had learned during the week. There was also a session in the importance of hand washing at critical times.

In Kateshi village, out of 68 households only three had adequate toilets (i.e., which offer privacy, no intolerable smells and hygienically separate human excreta from contact with humans, animals and insects – particularly flies) but no household had adequate hand washing facilities. The majority of community members practice open defecation. These conditions were similar in the other two villages selected: some had toilets but most of them were inadequate and did not have hand washing facilities. A majority of residents admitted to open defecation. The trainers facilitated an open dialogue with all the community members on the sustainable steps they could take to hygienically tackle the disposal of faeces and improve personal hygiene. After the triggering events, all three villages created Sanitation Action Groups and vowed to achieve ODF status by mid October 2014.

“The SSH4A approach is to support local governments to make the shift from a village-focused triggering programme to a coherent district-wide approach to service delivery for rural sanitation and hygiene. Within the DFID-funded programme, the district-wide approach and multi-stakeholder engagement is considered an essential element for sustainability. This is why districts in the programme are supported to develop district sanitation plans that match ambitions and resources, and seek alignment of different stakeholders in their area,” said Kumbulani Ndlovu, the SNV Project Manager for the SSH4A project. SNV will also conduct research and provide alternative sanitation products and services for the elderly and disabled who do not have access to these through local markets.

Ultimately, the project aims to ensure that an additional 230,000 people have access to and use improved sanitation services by the end of 2015, and to create 200 ‘open defecation free’ villages and communities by the end of 2015 in Zambia. This programme will contribute to the country's meeting the targets outlined in the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme and the Millennium Development Goals by December 2015. District plans have been drafted, trainers have been trained, partnerships have been established, and as you read this, villages across Northern Province are improving their sanitation practices and working towards achieving the ODF status.

Learn more about DFID's pledge to the SSH4A project and explore our work in WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygene).