By Steven Dunham, Portfolio Manager, Africa team
Lack of access to clean water and sanitation can have terrible consequences for children and families living in Zambia. Steven Dunham, World Vision’s Portfolio Manager, talks to us about the WASH program, which focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene to help combat diseases and contribute to all-round better health and quality of life.
How do you know if a community needs a WASH program?
Normally we undertake assessments – we implement surveys in a community to find out the location and quality of their water sources, what their hand-washing practices look like, and what kind of toilets they use. We collect health information from clinics to see what the major health issues are, and many of them are WASH-related. Children under five years will often experience recurrent episodes of diarrhoea, so it’s a significant health issue.
So we’re able to collect information from lots of different sources to paint a picture of a community’s WASH profile and whether or not they could use some support, and what those supports might involve.
The situation in Zambia
It’s typically very sparsely populated in rural Zambia with open bush, forest or farmland separating small settlements. If they don’t have a borehole, people will usually rely on streams and hand dug wells for a water supply. And if they do construct toilets, they’ll be very basic and they won’t isolate faecal matter from human contact. So flies can get in there and come out and they come into contact with food and a whole range of things. Culturally most people wash their hands before they eat. But sometimes they don’t wash their hands with soap. So just rinsing in a bowl, and they pass the bowl around – everyone rinses in the same bowl.
In developing countries, nearly 80 percent of childhood disease is related to unsafe drinking water, inadequate hygiene and poor sanitation. A lot of under-five [years old] mortality is WASH-related in those contexts because the health system is so weak. Even if problems are identified in children, it can be hard to access timely and adequate treatment.