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Lusaka’s underground water highly contaminated with human faecal matter, reveal health officials

NINETY per cent of tests done on the Lusaka underground water since cholera broke out have revealed that the commodity is contaminated with human faecal matter, according to sources at the Ministry of Health.

 

The sources further say while the government has presented shaking of hands and buying of food from streets as a major source of cholera, the truth was that most water in the capital city was highly contaminated.

 

“We’ve heard so much talk about cholera being transmitted through handshakes and other things. But the real issue here is that the water in Lusaka is highly contaminated with human faecal matter. Experts at the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other well-wishers have been carrying out tests on the underground water in Lusaka. And 90 per cent of these tests have revealed that this water is heavily contaminated with faecal matter. And this is the water that people depend on, especially those in compounds,” the sources said.

 

“If you remember, the first epicentre that the government declared when cholera broke out was in Chipata compound. So when ministry officials went there, they shut down all the water supply lines there because they knew that those were contaminated sources of water. Instead, the government started supplying treated water, and that is how the situation was somehow controlled.”

 

The sources said the problem was that the government was scared of losing the 2021 election, so they could not tell the truth about the real cause of cholera.

 

“Information that should be released to the people in the interest of their health is now being hidden from them. People in government are more concerned about winning the 2021 elections, so they just have to keep quiet on this important matter. The truth here is that the main source of cholera is our underground water. They can tell people to wash their hands with soap a hundred times in a day, but if our water is not properly treated, cholera will continue,” said the sources.

 

Since October last year, Lusaka has been grappling with a cholera epidemic, with the situation worsening at the end of December last year.

 

So far, over 3,000 cases have been recorded with 78 deaths across the country, with Lusaka deaths standing at 70.

 

Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) marketing and public relations manager Patson Phiri recently warned that underground water in the city was no longer safe for consumption.

 

He disclosed that while Lusaka had more than 400,000 houses that were eligible for connection to the company’s sanitation system, only 33,000 people were being serviced.

 

“Meaning that more than 90 per cent plus of waste is going underground and underground water, as a company, is a source of water for us to supply to the residents at the same time. So, you can imagine; here is a resource underground, which we think we must purify, treat and supply but it’s being contaminated everyday because we don’t have a sanitation programme that can help to reduce or prevent that,” said Phiri.

 

“So, this is a major challenge. I will not mention the percentage but there has been…I don’t want to alarm – [there is] a research by an international institution through the University of Zambia, which has just been released. This report is yet to be published and that’s why I’m not able to give specific details about it but the situation is very alarming. So, this is one of those many challenges that we are getting as a company.”

 

And FDD president Edith Nawakwi lamented that people were basically eating each other’s faeces as they drunk contaminated water.

 

Nawakwi, the former energy and water development minister in Frederick Chiluba’s government, recalled that around 2015 when she said “tikudya matuvi (we are eating faeces), people were upset with her, saying her language was not good.

 

“But that is the truth, you are quoting it with sexy words of cholera bacilli; what is that? It’s matuvi. First and foremost, the massive contamination is coming from Lusaka Water and Sewerage. The water is not treated properly. So that’s a source. The second source is open wells and proximity to pit latrines and then the open sewer system is a natural breeding ground for waterborne diseases, which include cholera, there is typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea, no one is less than the other; they all claim the lives of our children, they claim the lives of adults,” said Nawakwi.

 

“The other major source is that we are drinking each other’s faeces. Just think of you standing in Chalala. Lusaka is on limestone. The water from Lusaka East flows all the way to Lusaka west. Now if you look at the uncontrolled housing development; whether you are in Chalala or Meanwood, the plots are 30m x 25m and each plot owner has a borehole next to their pit latrine; they call them septic tanks but I would love to call them pit latrines. What is happening in Lusaka is worse than open defecation. What is happening in Lusaka is that we as a people are eating each other’s faeces, it is that crude, maybe when we use these crude words, people can realise that we are sitting not on a time bomb, we are sitting on a mass of faeces and the whole town, without exception, could perish.”

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