For many years, communities in Zambia have been living with a severe water crisis, affecting the lives of millions, especially in rural communities. But, people who live with the issue of water scarcity are working to solve this issue for their families. Their efforts are turning the tide of a hardship that has shaped their lives for generations, as they strive to build a better future for themselves and their children.
At the forefront of this transformation, Outreach International is deeply committed to the cause of access to clean, safe water. Our partners work tirelessly to facilitate positive change in communities in Zambia and around the world. But we don’t do their work for them. We empower communities to become the architects of their own future through community-led collaboration.
In this blog post, we explore this transformative journey, made possible because of the generosity of our donors. Every well drilled, every water filtration system installed, every community empowered, is a step toward a future where clean water for all is no longer a dream, but a reality.
Understanding the Water Crisis in Zambia
In Zambia, the water crisis is not a set of statistics. It’s a daily reality that shapes the lives of millions. And it’s not just about adequate access to water. It’s about access to clean water, which impacts health, education, commerce, and future opportunities.
The World Bank reports that only two-thirds of Zambians have adequate access to clean water. And this figure drops significantly in rural areas, where the infrastructure to supply clean water is likely either inadequate or non-existent.
In these rural areas, the daily routine for many people revolves around water collection. And because adults must work tirelessly to try to meet their family’s most basic needs, the chore of water collection often falls to the children. Some may start their day before sunrise to embark on an hours-long journey to the nearest water source. Often, this source is an untreated river or open well, neither of which reliably provides clean, safe water. The water they collect can often be filled with pollutants and bacteria, posing serious health risks.
And with no other water collection options available, this painstaking chore can deprive children of the time they would otherwise be able to spend in school.
Impact on Communities
In Zambia, the water crisis impacts every aspect of daily life. It’s a health crisis, an economic barrier, an educational hurdle, and a gender issue.
Contaminated water is a breeding ground for diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery, all of which are borne from the combination of unsafe water and inadequate sanitation practices. These diseases are not just common; they’re a pervasive part of life for those affected by the Zambia water crisis.
Recent studies state that unsafe water is the third largest cause of mortality for children under five in Zambia. This number brings to light the urgency of finding sustainable solutions. It also motivates community-based organizations to work tirelessly to find solutions and create positive change.
Economic and Educational Impact
The Zambia water crisis also casts a long shadow over the economic future of these communities. Time and resources that could be used for education or productive work are instead consumed by the endless cycle of water collection.
According to World Vision International, 49% of the rural population of Zambia relies on unsafe water sources, compared to 10% of the population in urban areas. This disparity is not just a matter of convenience; it’s a barrier to progress, and a perpetuator of poverty.
Women and girls are particularly affected by poor water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions. They are often called upon to do the work of hauling water. And the lack of toilets can be a risk to their privacy and safety.
Inadequate water supply and sanitation services contribute to a high rate of water-borne diseases and high dropout rates in schools, especially among girls.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, fewer than 20% of rural schools in Zambia were observed to have at least four of five recommended menstrual hygiene services (sanitary supplies, separate-sex latrines with doors and locks, water for use, waste bin). This lack of basic facilities poses a significant barrier to girls’ education, as they often miss school during their menstrual cycle due to the lack of these services.
Moreover, the burden of water collection predominantly falls on women and girls, taking up their time and energy and exposing them to safety risks. This not only hampers their educational and economic opportunities but also perpetuates gender inequality.
Outreach International’s Approach
We are more than a helping hand; we are a catalyst for change, a source of hope for communities facing the water crisis in Zambia. Our approach is rooted in the belief that community involvement is the cornerstone of sustainable solutions and lasting change.
Outreach International facilitates community-led development. This work is based on the methodology of participatory human development. People participate in every step of the process that leads to their own community-wide improvement. And through the work of our partners in Zambia and elsewhere, community members learn how to identify their own poverty-related issues and mobilize to solve them.
Assessing Water Needs and Resources
The journey toward sustainable water solutions begins with understanding. Our community partners conduct a thorough assessment of the water needs of their communities in Zambia. They identify organizations and government agencies that can provide partnership and resources such as funds or well digging services. Then they mobilize to achieve their goals.
Working hand-in-hand with our facilitators, community-led organizations identify the most effective and sustainable solutions, ensuring that the initiatives are tailored to the unique circumstances of their community. A shining example of this is the Kayowelo community center project.
Where once there was an unoccupied spot of land, there now stands a centralized space for local people to meet, discuss, and resolve issues. This center serves as a hub for people to increase their household income by selling goods, sharpening their skills through workshops, and continuing to empower one another through the distribution of services.
Making a Difference: Stories from Zambia
The impact of Outreach International’s work is not just measured in numbers but in the transformation of lives and communities. Each community we work with has a unique story of resilience, empowerment, and positive change.
Our work spans across various poverty-related issues, and we are proud to see these communities overcoming their challenges. The impact of our work is far-reaching, addressing numerous community issues and empowering hundreds of thousands of our community partners worldwide to work together, reach their goals, and break the cycle of poverty.
One of the most inspiring stories is that of Oliver, from Kapisha. A father of five, Oliver was juggling the demands of providing for his family and maintaining his small plot of land. The lack of water meant many of his crops would die, and the strenuous work of manually watering his plot seemed endless.
In 2018, Oliver joined 29 other farmers from Kapisha, Zambia who were determined to address their issue of poor crop yield due to insufficient irrigation. With the support of an Outreach International Human Development Facilitator, they accessed treadle pumps to irrigate their crops. The impact of the Harvesting Change project was immediate and transformative for Oliver and his family.
Today, Oliver’s yield has increased so much that his income has tripled. This has allowed him to purchase his own land, send all his children back to school, and build a sturdy, six-room home.
“This project has brought joy to me and my family. We are now able to have three meals a day and live in a decent house. Thank you!” Oliver shared.
The Mapande’s School Project
In the community of Mapande, Zambia, a transformation has taken place that has reshaped the future of its children. With Outreach International’s support, the community addressed a significant issue – the lack of local school infrastructure. Children once had to travel several kilometers every day on a sometimes dangerous road to access education. This was a situation the community decided to change.
They set up a nursery school in Mapande, a humble structure that offered a place for learning. Two volunteers, Clementina and Nicolas, dedicated their time to teaching as many as 125 children.
Their efforts were recognized by the Ministry of Education in Zambia, which guided them to become an official school. The community responded by making their own bricks –30,000 of them – and laying the foundation for a school building.
Despite pandemic challenges, the school received government support, including essential supplies and hand-washing stations to address the lack of clean water in schools. Today, the school stands as a beacon of community-led change. The teachers, once volunteers, now receive a salary, and the school is on its way to full government accreditation.
Supporting Outreach International’s Development Initiatives
Outreach International’s work in Zambia is a testament to the power of community-led action. By assessing the unique needs of individual communities, implementing projects, and empowering local leaders, they’ve brought about significant change. The stories of Oliver and the community of Mapande are just two examples of the many lives touched by these initiatives.
However, the journey doesn’t end here. There are still many communities in Zambia and around the world grappling with water scarcity and its far-reaching implications. We are committed to continuing our work but can’t do it alone.
You can be a part of this transformative journey. By supporting Outreach International, you can help fund projects like those that bring clean water to communities in need. Your support can come in many forms – donating, fundraising, or volunteering your time and skills.
Every contribution, no matter how small, can make a significant difference. It can help drill a well, install a water filtration or irrigation system. It can empower a community in so many ways to lift itself out of chronic poverty and into a future filled with prosperity that can last for generations..
How to Help
Join us in making a difference. To contribute, you can donate or become a volunteer.
Together, we are working to remove barriers to access to safe water, along with many other life-changing initiatives. Thank you for being a part of this good work.