An incredible 14,000 households and schools across George Compound, locally known as George, now have valuable information on hygiene and sanitation – information that saves lives, especially during a time of Covid 19.
Living in George is not anyone’s idea of luxury. It is one of Lusaka’s poorest neighbourhoods, with some 280,000 people living within a small area on the Northwest side of Lusaka.
Like any typical community, it has marketplaces, schools, and businesses. But George is neglected by local government and has grown into an unplanned neighbourhood with no proper infrastructure, sewage system, or waste disposal.
Additionally, water is not only tariffed but in short supply due to Zambia’s endemic power shortages.
Community members revealed to us that households in Lima Ward (within George) are not able to collect the daily household allocation of 200 liters because of shortages!
Some, like Memory who would struggle to come up with the water tariff in the best of times, resort to collecting run-off from leaking pipes; contaminated water that could easily lead to waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
In cases, some residents are forced to even more extreme measures, and out of desperation must defecate in plastic bags for lack of a toilet, throwing the bags out into the street – a practice known as flying toilets.
Safe disposal of fecal waste, without sewage systems, is one of the biggest problems in George. Village Water’s support has initiated start-up fecal sludge management (FSM) teams, who now earn a living by safely emptying pit latrines.
But simple changes, like storing water in narrow-mouth containers or making sure buckets are washed clean and closed, also have a significant impact. This is where volunteer community health workers come in.
Households – door to door volunteers
Eunice is one of 80 volunteer health workers who visit residents and schools across George, giving health advice and information.
“Before we came, people said they preferred using shallow wells to collect water because it is cheaper, but in a sense, it is not cheap at all, it is more expensive when it comes to getting sick at home.”
says volunteer Eunice,
“We are sensitising the community to the dangers of using contaminated water and now everyone is using the piped water instead, or they know how to treat water with Chlorine or by boiling.”
Schools – handwashing and menstrual hygiene management
Volunteer Vailes explains her role in George Central primary:
“I’m here to give health talks to pupils. For the girls, while menstruating, they are told by their parents not to go to school for 4 days and so they are missing out on school.
I teach menstrual health management, for girls… and boys, because I know boys have sisters and at one time, when they reach university, they will marry their wives who will be menstruating! So, they should learn this at school so that it does not become a myth.”
Kakunda Chandera, Senior teacher at George Central Primary, reports:
“We have even received children who did not know how to use toilets, because of Village Water Zambia and a concerted effort from the teachers the children have been taught how to use these facilities and even how to maintain them.
For girls, we had some who would not come to school during menstruation, there were no washing facilities. But now they can maintain their hygiene from here, dispose of the pads and so on. Attendance has been improved while also taking the same information to their homes to teach their parents and siblings.”
Footfall in George Compound markets is high. They are bustling, colorful environments full of traders and busy customers, but also have their hygiene and sanitation concerns. Public toilets at Mwamba Luchambe Market were dilapidated until Village Water Zambia made a complete renovation.
Annie is one of 900 traders in Mwamba Luchembe market, George Compound, Lusaka. Around 400 customers pass through the market daily. She owns a small restaurant and explains how the improved toilets have affected her and her trade:
“I started a business here 16 years ago! We didn’t have proper public toilets before, some customers would come to my restaurant and ask for the toilet, but now we have good fee-paying toilets, with hand sanitizers and wash containers. We like to keep it clean. We have benefited because if we did not have these toilets people might leave.”
Voices heard, lives changed!
After 26 months Village Water’s funded project has now come to an end, but the legacy continues.
Hygiene and sanitation awareness has risen significantly, and become established, among the 14,000 households and schools (over 70,000 people) reached.
The new fecal sludge management teams can not only earn a living from their work, but are a huge boost to health in George, ensuring the safe disposal of fecal waste. And, agreements made with local MPs, ensure the project ideals continue, not only in George but in wards across Lusaka.
Watch our video below to find out more:
Thanks to our incredible supporters, whose donations were matched by the UK government to fund this project.
Photos and video footage by Gareth Bentley