Destination Zambia – supporters discover our work

On 6 July a group of our water industry and corporate supporters will visit Zambia to see the difference their support makes. Follow their trip here.

We'll be providing regular updates as the group learn more about the people, projects and places where we are delivering transformational change, and all made possible through the generosity of our committed and valued supporters.

The crisis and the impact your support makes

Find out more about Zambia >

Day 5 (our final day) - Urban slum N'gombe, our partnership with a local NGO and the crisis that still remains

N'gombe in Lusaka, Zambia.

Our last day and after spending time in rural and urban suburbs we visited N'gombe - an urban slum in the heart of Lusaka. N'gombe was originally an unplanned settlement, meaning it was an illegal shanty town for migrant workers, coming to Lusaka to seek work in the 1960s. It is now recognised as a fixed settlement and is home to 80,000 people. Of this 80,000, 90% have no access to sanitation. This means they defecate in the open or use 'flying toilets' (they dispose of human waste in empty drinks cartons and dump them into a refuse pit or even the street). In addition 25% of the population have no access to clean drinking water.

WaterAid is working with Zambian NGO 'Keepers Zambia Foundation' on sanitation and hygiene projects through direct intervention (such as building demonstration toilets) and also through a network of trained community volunteers who do sanitation social marketing.

First we visited the health centre where director, Ignatius, described the improvements in health he's seen since WaterAid's hygiene education work began:

Diarrhoeal disease and bilharzia rates are down and there has not been any incidence of cholera since 2010.

We then moved on to the local school for vulnerable children and orphans - N'gombe Presbyterian School. Headteacher Mr Satiel explained that 60% of the children in N'gombe don't go to school, the children we saw are the fortunate ones. The school has separate toilets for girls, boys and teachers and with WaterAid's support holds hygience education classes. Female teachers, such as Angela, also conduct menstrual hygiene classes.

We then moved on to the village water source, a filthy rubbish-strewn stream at one end of the settlement. Villagers use this water as an alternative to purchasing water from the community trust-run water kiosks, which many cannot afford and are only operational for a fixed period each day due to the area's low water level. We met local women Bridget Phiri and Faustina Njuovo washing their clothes in this stream; both explained they had no choice other than to use this water. Right next to them was a stinking heap of rubbish, animal and human waste.

Finally, we saw an example of a demonstration toilet, this is built by WaterAid as an example and encouragement to the community. Rachel Chibaaga explained how it was a clean, safe and dignified way for particularly women, to go to the toilet.

Day 4 - Visiting a water treatment works and meeting the District Commissioner

Livingstone and Monze, Zambia.

Today we began the long journey back from Livingstone, in the far south of Zambia, to the capital, Lusaka. We broke our 500km+ journey with two very distinct visits; firstly to the SWSCO office and treatment works in Livingstone and then to pay a courtesy call on the District Commissioner in Monze.

SWSCO's treatment works was a real eye-opener. Not so much for the techniques and processes used, which are broadly similar to those used in the UK, but for the approach to health and safety! We were guided around the works by Susan, the Chief Engineer and only female in the engineering team. She explained how the water was pumped from the Zambezi, treated, stored and distributed. We were all amazed to be allowed to climb up the building and walk around the settlement tanks. In the UK, these would be fenced off. Similarly, the chlorine used for purification was freely accessible in a large vat. Very different to back home!

Following our visit to SWSCO, we hit the road and drove 300km up to Monze district, where we met Lucia Mwiinde, District Commissioner for Monze. The District Commissioner is appointed by the President and is responsible for the overall administration and smooth running of the district. Lucia thanked us for our work in the area and stressed her eagnerness to continue to work together in tackling the challenges of a rapidly growing population and peri-urban sprawl.

Day 3 - Enabling private companies to participate in the solution and the hardwork of the women of Samakondo

Mamboova and Samakondo, Kazangula district, Zambia.

Another fascinating and inspiring day, meeting some wonderful characters!

We had an early start and drove 70 kms from Livingstone to Kazungula - a district at the crossroads with four countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. The population of the area is increasing rapidly and this is consequently putting a strain on water resources.

Mamboova is a typical small town settlement in the district, situated about 10km from the Zambezi river and 300m from a small oxbow lake which provides the community with a water source. WaterAid is working with the local water utility company, SWSCO, to provide Mamboova with a solar powered water scheme which will supply clean, affordable water to the 2,500 residents and 1,000 transient workers. SWSCO engineer, Ndilakulampa Hamalambo showed us around the solar powered pump and outlined plans for the future, including increased water storage and treatment plants.

Currently, the solar powered pump is fitted with 18 solar panels which power a pump taking water from the nearby oxbow lake, treating, then distributing it via water tanks and kiosks to the local community. As a commercial company, SWSCO are reluctant to target communities who are unable to afford their commercial water charges, so without WaterAid's support, they would not have been able to work with the most vulnerable and poor communities like Mamboova.

Following that visit, we travelled a short distance to pay a fascinating and privileged visit to the district traditional leader, Chief Sekutee. This courtesy visit or 'kalesto' is traditional etiquette for all visitors. Sitting on the floor in Mamboova Palace we summoned the chief with a short burst of hand claps. Chief Sekutee is 81 years old and has been chief for over 30 years. As chief he owns all the traditional district land and has a responsibility to care for the local communities. WaterAid and its partners work closely with traditional leaders such as Chief Sekutee to make sure the community are bought in and to build strong partnerships. Chief Sekutee spoke graciously and generously about the positive impact of WaterAid's work in his community and hoped we would continue to support them and the many challenges they face.

From Chief Sekutee, we moved on to Samakondo village in Sikaunzwe ward, which has been declared an ODF zone (Open Defecation Free zone). This means each household has a latrine. Our work here began in 2011 and continues to support the community on water supply challenges.

Samakondo village itself is spotlessly clean with impeccably neat homesteads and yards. There are 80 households in the community and headman Gabriel Samakondo told us proudly that he upholds very strict hygiene rules. In extreme cases individuals can be banished from the village for unhygienic practices.

Despite its ODF zone designation and neat, welcoming appearance, the village faces huge challenges in accessing clean, safe water. Village women walk 2kms 4 - 8 times each day, up a rough dirt track, to collect water to drink, cook and wash from an open stream. We walked up to the water source with the women and watched as they sifted the surface water to clear away visible impurities, before filling their 20kg buckets. This is time-consuming and strenuous; it is incredible to think that women such as Alice and Grace Samakondo (both in their 60s) carry this out multiple times, each day.

As a show of solidarity, the UK water company executives (all men) decided to carry the water back to the village for the women. It was a remarkable and inspiring sight to see Peter, John, Luis and Richard balance the 20kg containers on their heads (just as the local women do) and walk the 2km along the dirt track, back to the villlage. As Peter Farrer from Scottish Water remarked afterwards,

for one afternoon, in one village, the women were smiling as men fetched water back from the stream!

Day 2 - A tale of two villages: before and after our work

Chisekeesi and Muzoonka, Southern Province, Zambia.

Abigail lifts up a jerrycan onto the ledge beneath the opening of a water kiosk. A person sits inside the kiosk in shade.What a fantastic day and two visits of real contrast.

First, an early start and 8am drive to Chisekeesi, a small town of about 3000 people, 15km outside Monze. WaterAid has run a comprehensive WASH programme here since 2010 in partnership with the local water utility, SWASCO. The technologies used include a solar powered pump, piped water supply and a system of community-led water kiosks (as shown in the adjacent picture).

We heard direct from the villagers of how access to clean, safe water had changed their lives. Abigail Hamwaala is a young mother with 3 children; aged 6 years, 4 years and 5 months. Before WaterAid came to the village, she would spend many hours each day collecting water from a hand dug well. The water was dirty and unsafe and she and her family were often sick with stomach illnesses and diarrhoea. Abigail also had no time to find work or generate extra income for her family.

WaterAid, in partnership with SWSCO, installed a borehole and solar powered pump, which supplies clean, safe water for the community. The water is sold to the community at an affordable rate with the profits being split between the maintenance of the water system and a small salary for the kiosk attendant.

Abigail now works part-time in the water kiosk, selling clean, safe water to the local community. She is very happy with this job as she is the sole breadwinner in her family and her children no longer suffer with sickness and diarrhoea. The income also allows her to save some money which she is investing in building an extension to her house.

By contrast, Muzonka settlement is a pre-intervention project, a small town which WaterAid has identified as a site of possible intervention. The community was established alongside the railway and now the rail industry has declined it has suffered from a lack of investment.

The whole area has around 3000 residents with 300 at the settlement we visited, all of whom used a traditional open well as their main water source. The well is uncovered at night, animals drink from it and it often runs dry as it was not intended to serve such a large community. The villagers complained about the lack of access to water and poor quality of water. As the headteacher Mr Tembo stated: "there is stiff competition for water between people and pigs". He also mentioned how difficult it was for the high percentage of HIV positive children to practise good hygiene.

At the end of the day we reflected on the contrast between the two settlements and the sharp difference between pre intervention and post intervention projects.

Pre-intervention visit to Chisumo

Chisumo Village, Ufuwenka, Southern District, Zambia.

A woman and man looks at a hole in the ground with a crowd surrounding them.After an hour and a half's drive through the Munali hills and some pretty precarious rough bush tracks, we arrived in Chisumo village. Chisumo is a pre-intervention village, so we were here to see the current challenges faced by the local community and learn more about WaterAid's planned work for the area.

After the most tremendous traditional welcome of singing, dancing and sweet maize beer we heard from local villagers, Rosemary Moonga and Shadrick Moonga (pictured addressing group). They explained how the village relied on 3 small scoop holes for all their water needs. These were shared with animals and livestock so were often dirty and contaminated.

Many of the local children regularly got upset stomachs and bouts of diarrhoea. The nearest clinic is 4 hours away on foot, so it is very difficult for them to get medicine when their children are sick.

Clala Hamalambo (pictured below, outside her home) explained how the women often spend up to 6 hours each day, collecting water for their families needs. The women take turns in gathering water but often if they arrive later in the day, there is no water left as the scoop hole has run dry. Clala told us how difficult this makes life, sometimes there is no water to bathe, wash, cook with. She hopes very much that a clean, accessible water supply will be installed in her village, so her children can benefit from good water and sanitation.

It was an incredible privilege to meet such resilient and friendly people.

Ready to go!

Glasgow, UK

Bags are packed, itineraries complete and passports in hand. Tomorrow, Saturday 6 July, our five intrepid senior corporate supporters embark on their fact finding trip to our project work in the southern region of Zambia.

Richard Warneford, Waste Water Director, Northumbrian Water and Dave Hillyard, Head of Major Partnerships, WaterAid, share their thoughts with us and the sense of anticipation around the trip:

I consider myself fortunate to be able to take part in this visit, joining colleagues from the water industry and our supply chain to visit WaterAid projects. I am hoping to visit many sites and meet people who now have hope, where before there was little. I also expect to meet many people who desperately need help. As a father of two young children, the contrast between my own kids' lives and the daily struggle and heartbreak of the parents and children that I meet may be hard to take. To consider clean water and access to adequate sanitation as a luxury is something I cannot imagine and the ongoing work of WaterAid is key to helping everyone access such essentials of life.

I am really looking forward to seeing our work in Zambia together with a team of senior executives from the UK water industry. It is excellent to have such long term and deep commitment from the water industry and to be able to see how their support is being put to good effect in providing communities with access to safe water to drink and decent sanitation. Of course it will also be fantastic to be back in Africa again as well!