Field Diary: From Sewerage to Sanitation for all in Lusaka

Field Diary: From Sewerage to Sanitation for all in Lusaka

To learn more about this project on ‘Design and Roll-out of the FSM toolbox and a MLE Platform for Urban FSM’, click here.

Lusaka: The Sanitation Context

Lusaka is the capital of Zambia and has a population of over 2.5 million people, which is expected to double by 2035. 70% of its inhabitants live in unplanned, informal settlements (or peri-urban areas), which have very limited access to basic services. Sanitation in particular is a major challenge, resulting in regular cholera outbreaks. The city’s most recent outbreak involved 5,414 cases, including 98 deaths. Sanitation related diseases are among the top three causes of child mortality and morbidity in Zambia.

Until very recently, onsite sanitation and Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) were practically unheard of in Zambia, despite 84% of residents depending on them. Urban sanitation provision focused on sewerage, and onsite solutions were largely neglected. There was no national policy, no regulation, and very little official service provision. The effect of this void was felt most keenly by Lusaka’s poorest residents, who suffer the worst effects of poor sanitation provision in the city.

Meeting Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC)

Athena has been working with the city utility, Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC), to develop a monitoring and benchmarking platform under the BMGF Citywide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) program. Intersecting with other sanitation programs in Lusaka, CWIS aims to develop LWSC’s capacity to manage and provide effective sanitation services for every one of Lusaka’s inhabitants.

For the past few months, we have been meeting with the key sanitation stakeholders to understand the roles and responsibilities, as well as current and planned programs. We have also been mapping out the monitoring systems and assessments which currently make up the FSM data ecosystem, along the entire value chain from user interface to reuse and disposal of fecal sludge.

Constructing and Mapping Sanitation Facilities

Ongoing sanitation activities in Lusaka include the construction of dedicated fecal sludge treatment facilities, and improved latrines. Financially viable private FSM models have been piloted, and will be rolled out across the city. Mapping of all sanitation facilities is ongoing. Dedicated resources at the utility and capacity strengthening will establish sanitation service delivery. While development of standards, regulation and bylaws will provide the institutional framework. Indeed, an exciting time for sanitation in Lusaka.

Athena’s role in supporting this drive is to identify gaps in data which is required for effective sanitation planning and decision-making. Once identified, we will develop the long-term, sustainable strategies for the utility and city authorities to collect the data to fill these gaps.

Constructing and Mapping Sanitation Facilities

The next step is a workshop with the major FSM players, to discuss and prioritize indicators which will be used on the platform. We will then collate and analyze the data which will be used on the first update of the platform. We’ll then work with LWSC to develop data collection protocols and systems, to allow for sustainable and cost-effective monitoring of the health of FSM into the future. Lusaka’s journey to improved sanitation for all its residents is well underway.

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Chris Elliott
Chris' interests include urban programming, GIS mapping, food security and nutrition, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian mine action and ICT solutions for development.