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" A Deprived community "

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“Wake up Dando! It’s already 04:30 hours, we ought to start off else we will spend two hours on the queue at the near by well”. These were words of my beautiful sister spoken to me almost every morning of each day. In highly populated and rural areas of my country a lot of women and children are deprived of their sleep and spend most of their productive hours drawing water in wells and communal taps. This is due to lack of availability of adequate and clean water within the poor communities. In 2004 only 58% of Zambian population had access to improved source of water supply (IPS: story underneath)

I grew up in a land blessed with the largest water resources in the whole of southern Africa with 5 massive lakes and plentiful rivers. One would be certain that with such magnificent water falls like the amazing Victoria Falls Zambia has no challenge when it comes to offering adequate and safe water to its community. But this is not the case because access to adequate clean water has continued to be a problem since its independence.

I call my journey in life a two sided coin. My early child hood days are memories of luxury and privileges. Though tiny and tall as my description was, I was blessed with a caring mother and father who wanted the best for their children. I had access to almost all the basic needs such as shelter, cloths, food, and adequate clean water. This is but just the first side of my coin and is a story for a later day. My main focus though is on the other side of the same coin.

During my early teens in the initial years of 21st centaury, I was faced with a life of denial to one essential commodity in life. Due to various circumstances in life I found myself staying in a highly populated community in my country with my sister. I recall my teen days when waking up at 04; 30 hours became part of my bloodstream. My thoughts were that of water, I could talk water, smile water, walk water and dream water. I could not do a thing without thinking of where and how to find water. I remember walking the streets of my community too dark to even see a white thing in search for water. We could walk with fear running through our veins, for we never knew whom we could meet on our way. Women from all corners of this community would join in the walk as we headed to our destination. Children ages 8 to 10 deprived of their sleep, exposed to this kind of lifestyle could join the masses.

I recall how on several incidents in cold season, I could shiver because of the whether which was unbearable as I went to draw water. My dark long blue jersey was ever on my body, with a chitenge wrapped round my small waist, and black shoes worn on my feet as I queue on a long line. The images of little babies as they cling to their mothers with running noise and tears in their eyes have never left my mind.

At times when I reached the house where we used to draw water, I considered joining a long queue. When the gate opened we could all run in hoping to be the first ones to draw water. Sometimes I could be on number ten, but this was just a number for a person, as one person could have more than 3 or 4 buckets, others carried large drums. Mothers were eager to be the first ones so that they would go home early to prepare, break fast and bathing water for their husbands and children.
Reporting early for school was a challenge on my side and probably others. I had no choice, since I was a girl and drawing water was part of my duty, I had to make sure we had enough water to drink, wash and bath. Without water we were stranded and there was no way we could do our house chaos. As a young girl I had no choice but to lift heavy loads of buckets and containers on my head, unfortunately we had no wheelbarrows. Due to the heavy loads of water I was carrying, I developed chest pains and I was told by the doctor that it came as a result of lifting heavy things. In this community most women complain of back ache and chest pains.

Women and young girls are always victims of vulnerability and access to adequate clean water is not an exemption. Attacks on women and girls on their way to the water sites very early in the morning or at night to fence water were also reported. Influenced by their male compassions, young girls took advantage of drawing water to engaging themselves in promiscuous behavior. At night these young girls ages 12 to 15 would be seen with bucket as if they were going to draw water but in the long run resorted to sexual activities. This ended some of them to unwanted pregnancies or early marriages. Mothers were not excluded, there were certain scenarios where women would be scolded or beaten by their husbands because they took long at the water site

Though this was in an urban set up, we walked long distances to find water. Most of this water was found in shallow wells. The wells in my community were dug by concerned residents who offered service to the masses in my community at a minimal fee. Most of these well are 2 to 3 m from the pit-latrine. Some wells were meant for drinking water while others were meant for washing and bathing water. Although some of us were literate about the complication of drinking this water, we had no choice but to take the risk.

Rain season was always a joyous moments for me, this is because we had water within our reach, each time it started raining we could put our buckets beneath the edge of the roof, By so doing water could drop in our buckets. This water was used for washing and bathing but some of our neighbors used it for cooking and drinking. This system has continued even to date. Most of the people have dug wells within their yards, this enables them to have access to water within their reach and this same water is sold to the community at a minimum fee. I could throw the container while holding to the edge of the rope in an open well as I pulled the container out, it carried with it heavy thick water with a strong scent, then I could pour the water in my basin, I guess it was more of a morning exercise. Underground the well water and water from pit latrines would meet hence contaminating the water we draw. As a result out break of different water borne diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery and other water born diseases never left our compound. Both children and adult suffered from these water born diseases, others even lost their lives. The wells are also dangerous in my community as young children are at high risk of falling in the wells. In 2008 a young girl lost her life as she drown in one of the wells as she was running away from the rains on her way home . she was found after three days floating on top of the well waters.

I never got to know our mp and counselor not because I wasn’t interested but because I didn’t know where to find them. During the campaign period I could only hear vehicles hooting, and cadres preaching about the people we ought to vote for. Promises to deliver social services were made countless times but once these people were voted into power, little or nothing was implemented. People’s voices, Women voices have been raised but it seems to be landing on deaf hears. Mrs. phiri a human rights activist who has lived in one of the highly populated compound of Lusaka almost her entire life “it is very difficulty for members of parliament to deliver what they promise because they do not stay within our community, they are just imported, they have everything where they stay”. “ They don’t feel the pain of walking long distances and don’t know how it feels to drink dirty water from the wells”. The council is levying us ground rates and other levies for them to provide social services but we have never seen any one of them putting up a water utility in this community” she narrates.

Every year during parliament, money is allocated to the water sector but little or nothing has been implemented in poor communities. This has lead to a number of groups originating ideas. for instance a group known as marketers came up with an initiative of putting up a communal tap after many times of pleading with their counselor to put up a communal taps. Since the counselor was reluctant about the project, they wrote a proposal to care international trust, which funded them. “This water facility we have was put as a result of the marketers’s initiative” says a chairperson for a market known as chibolya- johnlaign market. The communal taps serves hundred of people who reside in that area but lack maintaince.

According to 2008 global corruption report by transparency,which took corruption in the water and sanitation sector world wide as its focus. 80% of health problems in developing country can be linked back to inadquate water and sanitation, claiming the lives of nearly 1.8 million children every year and leading loss of an estimated 443 million school days for the children who suffer from water borne diseases. According to the Anti corruption comission in zambia instead of making water available to most rural poor, most of the boreholes are installed on government officials private plots.

Although chlorine is sold at a very inexpensive , the majority of Zambians live on half a dollor per day, hence most of the poor in the community could rather buy a pamela (a small plastic bag of millie meal) to feed their children than buy chlorine. In rural areas, access to chlorine comes with challenges of transport and poverty.

Since November 2008 more than 500 people lost their lives due to cholera. Almost each rain season there is an outbreak of cholera. Cholera is a water-sanitation borne disease. Sanitation- related disease including cholera and trachoma are the second biggest killers in Zambia’s children this is according to inter press service news agency.

The government is the major drive of development in any country. It is only through transparency and accountability of the monies meet for the contraction of water facility in communities that will ensure access to adequate clean water. As the international and local leaders sit to plan issues such as water supply, monitoring and evaluations should be strictly followed to ensure that what was planned is implemented. Both the international and local donors should continue to work with the community in making adequate clean water accessible. If only politician can be there for the people and implement their promises, then we could see less and less of water born diseases and reduced death in our community.

“My heart longs for that day when every human being regardless of their race, color, status and language will have the right, to access adequate clean water within their reach”

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

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Comments

lanjana's picture

Nice article Dando I know how

Nice article Dando

I know how it feels like as in Kathmandu also there is scarcity of water, and the irony is Nepal being the second richest country in water resources.Recently the far western region of Nepal have been suffering from the epidemic of diahorrea and dysentry and government officials and doctors have not reached there. The Ministers and CA members have gone there through helicopter and came back in that helicopter itself. And our youth group has organized a mission campaign which might be useful for you to fight with the epidemics that unsafe drinking water can be. Here is the blog of that mission campaign and please let me know if it helps : http://paschimpaaila.blogspot.com/

Love
Anjana

JaniceW's picture

Amazing campaign

Anjana,
Namaskar. What a great program and it's inspiring to see all the volunteers helping to create the bottles of Piyush (chlorine). I also sent Dando a link to an inexpensive filtration product that you might be interested in (see below). Keep me posted on your mission campaign and saphalhos.

Hardik Subhakamana,
Janice

p.s. we have just come out of a 5-day heatwave with temperatures over 40° C. I was so miserable and can't even imagine your months-long summer of those temperatures!

Dando's picture

HI Anjana

Thank you for comment and concern. Its really sad to note that access to clean water is also scarce in your community. one thing I have noticed is that the government official, may know the problem but the problem is the don't want to react there and then, not untill the problem has advanced to uncontrollable level. Thank God there are youths trying to look at such problems as this. I will definatly join the group and it is I believe very helpful.

Love you and God bless.

JaniceW's picture

Lifestraw

Dando,
I am so moved by this story. There is an organization called Vestergaard Frandsen, an international public health intervention company, which produces LifeStraw®, a portable water filter for prevention of common diarrhoeal disease – that can be carried around for easy access to safe and clean drinking water. It just looks like a giant straw. You can read about their launch in Ghana last year at:
http://allafrica.com/stories/200802080617.html

Their instant water purifier, which is known as the LifeStraw Purifier, is used to purify water at the household level, to eradicate micro bacterium, which is responsible for water-borne diseases.

You can read more about the product and Vestergaard Frandsen at:
http://www.vestergaard-frandsen.com/lifestraw.htm

You can also find contact information for the office nearest you which I believe would be their Kenyan office:
http://www.vestergaard-frandsen.com/vf-global.htm

It would be a dream to have clean and readily-available water accessible to everyone in the world and I thank you for bringing this to our attention. With best wishes,
Janice

Dando's picture

Thank you

Janice for the information, I will browse through the links you have provided. Its the first time am hearing about vestergaard but it sounds so interesting and I can't wait to learn more about it, and I just hope it is very affordable.

With love and hugs.

Manori's picture

we gotta fix this!

Hi Dando

Reading your article was so sad. I have read about the struggles of people around the world to access water, and know that women and children bear the brunt of it. But you are the first person i have met who has experienced this first hand and it was so moving to realise how hard it has been for you.

I'm so glad to see Anjana and Janice post helpful information for you. I really think this is a situation that, even in a small way, surely we can help you to fix? There are many organisations that are working in the area of access to safe drinking water.

I came across the following organisations a few months ago when i was looking up some information. These orgs work with communities and help them with small grants and facilities to address their access to water issues. I hope you can find something useful here that may work out to be a solution for you.

http://www.globalwaterchallenge.org
http://www.charitywater.org/
http://waterfortheages.org/international-water-organizations/

This has got to be a problem that can be fixed!

Manori

Dando's picture

Manori

Thank you for providing me with such helpful information, I believe the information that you and other wonderful women are providing will definatly help. And you are right this is a problem which can be fixed.

Love you!

Dando

Francie's picture

Amazing

Hi Dando,

Your story is just amazing! You do a great job of cataloguing all of the hazards, including loss of sleep, missing school, developing chest pains, beatings, attacks and disaeas, that women and girls must face in the search for water. You also did a nice job of relating the problems in your community to the worldwide problems with corruption and neglect in the water and sanitation sector. How do you think that the politicians in Zambia can be held accountable for these issues? Great start, Dando!

Dando's picture

Francie!

am so happy to hear from you at last. Am glady you found my journal amazing.
In response to your question, I think the politician can be held accountable in these issues in the sense that in the first place, before they are voted into power, they claim to know the problem affecting that particular community and in there campaigning they promise to deliver once voted into power. But immediately they are voted in to power, there are too busy to address the problems they promised to put an end to. You find that they rarely visit their constituency. we really don't understand how they see to it that the money allocated to water provisions in their community is utilized. In short most politicians tend to be too busy for their communities. These people donot put their words into action and It is only through their words that we can hold them accountable!

Francie's picture

Hi Dando, I'm sorry that I

Hi Dando,

I'm sorry that I wasn't clear in my post. When I asked how the politicians can be held accountable for lack of follow-through, I didn't mean "why are they responsible" but, rather "how can you go about holding them accountable:) Hope that is clearer!

Best,

Francie

Dando's picture

Hi Dear!

Actually I think its me who did not understand your question, Well, I don't think I can give you the right answer but my thoughts are may be by doing a campaign and also by conducting some interviews with them to really find out the main problem of why they are not implementing. But I really need to hear from you your views on how we can go about holding politicians accountable?

Thanks in advance,

Love,

Dando

Kim Crane's picture

It's hard for me to imagine

It's hard for me to imagine spending 2 hours in line waiting for water or having to take on such a physically demanding responsibility at such a young age. It really puts into perspective the things I complain about. This is such an important issue. thank you for sharing your story and trying to hold governments accountable for their promises.

Dando's picture

Hi Kim

you have to wait in the queue for a long time because of the cogestion, the more the population the more the number of people in need of water, so it is really difficulty where everyone depend on one water utility to draw water like it was in my situatuion. it is actually the government who are actually responsible because they are the overseers and make the budget for its citizens. Although we as citizens play an important role to contribute to the development of the country, it is the government reponsibility because we trust and put them in power so that our needs are addressed.

thanks for your comment and God bless.
with Love
Dando

Nusrat Ara's picture

We in Kashmir have abundant

We in Kashmir have abundant water resources but of late we too are facing water shortages. Nothing of this sort just the tap runs dry for a few hours to few days. Here also we don't drink tap water unless it is boiled but that is our own problem. The cleaning system and government apathy is the culprit. It is really sad how much people have to suffer for a basic nessasity of life. we are also culprits as we are the cause of pollution and all.

Hope better sense prevails for a better future.

Love

Nusrat

Dando's picture

Nustrat!

Hi, thanks for your comment, am happy to hear that you have abundant water resources, but sad that you are experiancing water shortages. It is important to boil or add purification in water since most of the tap water is usually unpredictable. Especially in developing nations, people really suffer and the burden is mainly on women and children be it rural or urban areas.
How do we mean we are also culprits?
Love you and best of Luck.

Dando.

Nusrat Ara's picture

We are culprits when we

We are culprits when we pollute water. There are a lot of things that can be avoided. It might not be u because u know the value of water but I tell u there are poeple who still do things that they know are wrong. We are culprits when we tend to think of ourselves only and also only of the present. We are culprits when we waste water. We are culprits when we don't undersatnd and accept the value of water. Though our religion forbids strictly wastage of water even in washing our face before prayers a lot of water gets wasted daily. It is killing to know people in some other part of world are suffering so much on the same account.

Love

Nusrat

Dando's picture

You are right

we are culprits when we don't take precautions, when we pollute the water. for instance in one of the minning towns in my country, water has been polluted on several occasion and forced people to draw water in nearby stream.
Thanks for the clearification, have a nice day and Good luck

with Love
Dando

Nusrat Ara's picture

Congratulations ! . Keep it

Congratulations ! . Keep it up.

Nusrat

Dando's picture

Wow!

Thank you Nusrat, I really didn't expect my frontline Journal to be among the three for publication, because you and all the correspondants' journal were just too great and amazing. We are all good and did our best.

Congratulation too and best of luck!
with Love

Dando

Nusrat Ara's picture

You have done a wonderful

You have done a wonderful job. Thw world is undergoing a serious water crisis and things are going to get worse.

Love

Nusrat

Dando's picture

Thank Nustrat!

I think we have all done a wonderful and recommendable job on our fronline Journals. we unfolded the hiden and forgotten issues surrounding our communities. For sure access to clean water is still a challege and applause to the many organisations working to ensure that people in various communities has access to clean water.
Congratulations too for the great work on your frontline journal.

Love you and best of luck.

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Congrats Girl!!!!!!

Am proud of you. Good work!

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

Dando's picture

Thank you

Gift, am also very proud of you. you did a recommedable Job.

wishing you Best of luck and God bless.
with Love
Dando

mamaAfrica's picture

Congratulations

Great work Sister Dando, Keep it up!

Dando's picture

Mama!

Thank you so much for your congratulations message!
you also did a great Job,

Best of Luck and God bless.

With Love and JOy

Dando.

Hallo dearest Dando,
Firstly, i want to congradulate you for penning this problem.

Zambia is our neighbour and we have a lot in common perhaps it is because of the history that we share. I related well to the water crisis, the long winding queues, the chorela, the harship faced by women in a patriachal society where house chores such as fetching water is seen as a task that is naturally assigned to women.
Thank you for raising this and making the world see our challenges as young women and the challenges faced by our mothers and grandmothers.

Keep it up, Dando.

Love
Gertrude Pswarayi

Dando's picture

Hi Dear

Thanks for comment
I really appreciate.
with love
dando

Jim Kavanaugh's picture

Introduction and request

Dear Dando:
I am a psychologist living in the United States with my wife from El Salvador and 17 year old daughter. I’m also a graduate student in journalism, writing a Masters thesis on the high rates of child mortality in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The thesis explores the links between research on helping responses to distant victims – and models of mass media communication that apply research principles, advocate for life threatened children, and foster compassionate action among citizens in other countries. Kimberly Crane, the Assistant Editor of World Pulse, suggested that you might be a good person to contact with regards to my thesis.
As part of my study I have been interviewing a range of communication specialists and journalists engaged in work related to the thesis topic. I believe that the work of World Pulse, and all its members, is an important example of a nonprofit organization that saves the lives of remote rural children by giving a voice to women. I have read your story of clean water challenges in Zambia, which I know is a leading cause of diseases among African children. So I am writing to thank you for your work, and to ask if you might participate in a brief Skype interview with me. I don’t expect it to take longer than 30 minutes.
It would be an honor to talk with you on this issue of mutual importance. For me it was a trip through Africa that turned my life around and set me on a road of public service, including three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. During my career as a health professional I decided to study journalism and become a better advocate for neglected children. My thesis is a small contribution to this effort. Please let me if you receive this message, and if can participate in an interview. I can be reached at kavanaughnm@yahoo.com. Many thanks.

Dando's picture

Hi

Great work you are doing.
I will send you a email in your email account.

thanks

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