Zambia: A sigh of relief for elementary students struggling without water during dry spell

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By Bruce Mulenga, Zambia Red Cross Society

For many months, it stood unusable – a borehole within arms’ reach of the Sikaunzwe Primary School in southern Zambia. Tantalizing, it enticed students and teachers, in an area currently affected by a prolonged dry spell. But it was broken, and could not provide one drop of the most precious resource – water.

The Zambia Red Cross Society, through the Building Resilience for African Communities (BRACES) project, intervened and repaired the borehole bringing a sigh of relief to over 600 pupils and 300 families living near the school. No longer do they need to walk long distances to fetch water for drinking and household chores.

The borehole is the only source of clean and safe water following the drying up of many streams and shallow water wells in the area due to inadequate rains last rainy season. “For several months there has not been water at school. This made me and other pupils miss classes because we couldn’t find drinking water when we needed it,” says Sara Mudenda, a pupil at Sikaunzwe Primary School.

For many pupils like Sara, school has been made easier because the presence of water is encouraging them to attend classes. “Since this borehole broke down, pupils and teachers have been finding it hard to find water to refresh themselves,” says the school’s deputy head teacher. “As you know, water refreshes and without it, children lose concentration easily due to dehydration.”

Similarly, women from the surrounding villages need not travel long distances to access water as they can now use the repaired borehole at the school.

Satellite Disaster Management Committee members, also known as the SDMCs, initiated the repairing of the borehole with support from the Zambia Red Cross Society. They motivated community members to embark on repairing the broken borehole so that their access to water is improved. “As SDMCs, we are specifically trained by the Zambia Red Cross Society to assist communities to identify their needs through a process called Community Action Plans. We mobilized community members to begin repairing the borehole in order to improve their access to water. The borehole has eased the lives of community members because they can now have access to clean and safe water,” says Daniel Muhau, a member of the SDMC.

As ponds and streams are drying up, more people living along the Zambezi River Basin are likely to have inadequate access to safe and clean water. This is not only because the rainy season has ceased, but because there was not enough rain to fill streams in most parts of the country.

The borehole was repaired through the BRACES project implemented by the Zambia Red Cross Society in Kazungula and Mwandi districts, with financial support from the American Red Cross.