Commemorating World Water Day at Mantapala Refugee Settlement in Zambia
On 22nd March every year people across the world join in commemorating the International World Water Day, an annual UN observance day that focuses attention on the importance of freshwater, calling on the sustainable management of freshwater resources globally. Each year, a theme corresponding to a current or future challenge is set by UN-Water, the entity that coordinates the work on water and sanitation at the UN. This year’s theme is “Leaving no one behind”, an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that is, as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit. This is related to the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management for all by 2030.
Globally, World Water Day is celebrated with a variety of events, such as educational, theatrical, musical and lobbying campaigns. Such events bring to light the lack of access to safe drinking water experienced by billions of people around the world. According to the UN marginalized groups including women, children, refugees, and internally displaced persons, are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need. In fact, the latest statistics indicate that for the 68.5 million who have been forced to flee their homes, accessing safe water services is highly problematic.
As part of the efforts to tackle the difficulty in accessing safe drinking water among displaced populations, the Zambia programme of Action Africa Help International has been implementing water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Mantapala refugee settlement, an integrated refugee settlement located in Nchelenge District of Luapula Province in northern part of Zambia bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since August 2017, refugees fleeing conflict in Pweto area in Tanganyika province of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been arriving at Kenani Transit Centre, a reception centre set up by UNHCR to receive influx of refugees into Zambia crossing through Chiengi District, the smallest and most northerly district of Luapula Province. Most of the refugees received at the transit centre eventually get settled in Mantapala refugee settlement. Currently, there are some 4,236 households in the settlement, each is allotted a plot sized 35 by 25 meters on which to erect a temporary shelter and plant crops to feed their family.
Since the influx into the transit centre begun, Action Africa Help Zambia has been providing WASH assistance both at the centre and Mantapala refugee settlement. With support from UNHCR and UNICEF, AAH Zambia constructs temporary and permanent latrines and bathing shelters, installs tippy-taps, promotes good hygiene, and decommissions old latrines.
During this year’s World Water Day commemoration AAH Zambia involved around 100 refugees in cleaning of some 40 borehole water points in Mantapala settlement. Block committees, elected by block members, brought together members of their respective blocks in the cleaning to clear clogged drainage channels that trap used water around water points, in order to reduce risk of contamination of water in the boreholes and outbreak of water-borne diseases. Shelters were also constructed at 10 water points as a measure for maintaining good hygiene.
A march also took place from the main market in Mantapala to Save The Children Square officiated by the Chair of Nchelenge Town Council, Mr. Courageous Monta. Several schools from Mantapala, beneficiaries from the refugee settlement, WASH volunteers from AAH Zambia office, and representatives from Zambia Red Cross also participated in the events through various drama and songs highlighting; the importance of regular cleaning of water points; risks of open defecation near rivers supplying the settlement; right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right; and significance of access to clean and potable drinking water to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.