11 December 2017
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Kasungu community reaps from collaboration

Written by  Vincent Khonje
Kampala having a feel of piped water at Kapyanga as MP Kazombo looks Kampala having a feel of piped water at Kapyanga as MP Kazombo looks

Kasungu, December 04, 2017: Fourteen years ago may seem a long time to some people but to Rhoda Chikanda, it seems like yesterday. The memories are still fresh because what she went through in 2003 left an indelible mark of unbearable pain in her life.

Then pregnant, Chikanda unexpectedly became due for delivery of her child. Sadly, her home village is far away from any health facility. The modes of transport are also unreliable.

“Early in the morning of that day, I started experiencing muscle contraction. I decided to seek medical attention and while on the way to hospital, I gave birth by a roadside. It was around six in the morning,” says Chikanda, a resident of Kapyanga Village in Traditional Authority Wimbe, Kasungu.

 “It was a shameful sight as children passing by en route to school saw me. Worse still, there was no water nearby to clean myself.”

Chikanda says she used soil to cover the blood on her body.

All this happened to Chikanda when people in the area together with chiefs had been gathering bricks and sand for construction of a health facility.

The case Chikanda represents the experience of so many women in the area for the past 14 years.

Compounding the challenges of lack of health facilities is the problem of access to clean and potable water.

The area - surrounded by several village heads including Chipumba, Chiguma, Hanyezi, Kasiya and Kalufu - face perennial water problems with the majority of people finding solace in unsafe shallow wells.

It is because of the stressing issues that the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) decided to engage communities in demanding their right to development including access to proper health care.

In 2014, NICE facilitated the formation of community groups called Citizen’s Forums with the aim of empowering people in standing up and having their voice heard.

NICE’s Regional Civic Education Officer for the north Vincent Kalawa believes that development is a right and it is necessary to empower the people to demand for it.

“The most important thing is for people to say what they want. It’s not about what one can bring to the people but what the people want,” says Kalawa.

The initiative of Citizen’s Forums has seen the community taking to task duty bearers to the point of signing a memorandum of understanding on promises made.

Medson Saka is chairperson of Kapyanga Citizen’s Forum and says the forums are a platform where they mobilize themselves and resources in the community before engaging duty bearers.

“As a community, we gather bricks, sand and rocks before calling for duty bearers to help us,” says Saka.

“We have had interface meetings with the District Commissioner, District Health Officer, councilors and the Member of Parliament for this area telling them what we have done our part for them to help us.”

The citizen voices amplified by the media led to the district council allocating K25 million out of K226 million of the District Development Fund (DDF) for the construction of a health facility.

MP for the area Madalitso Kazombo has for a long time been taken to task by the constituents who persuaded him to consider helping in the construction of a health facility and provision of potable water.

Kazombo engaged different government officials including the then Minister of Health Dr. Jean Kalilani just to have a health facility.

The allocation of K25 million for the construction of the facility in 2015/16 came as a relief to him.

“This is what the people have been crying for. It is always pleasing to see that their wish has been granted,” says Kazombo.

The presence of the health structure has seen people calling for another development component, clean water.

A health facility needs continuous flow of water from taps.

WaterAid, an organisation working in the sector of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), came in through its project Deliver Wash.

The goal of the project is to improve WASH in health facilities especially in maternal and neonatal health service delivery.

The newly built health facility now has running tap water and sanitary facilities provided with support from WaterAid at a tune of K50 million.

There is now a solar powered pump which gets water from the ground, a tank and also a borehole for surrounding communities.

Kazombo hails unity which has seen a number of development projects being achieved in the area.

“This could not have happened if it was a one man’s show. It was the cooperation of the people, chiefs, the media, district council, NICE and WaterAid that has borne this fruit,” he explains.

WaterAid regional director for Southern Africa Robert Kampala says the people of Kapyanga have worked very hard to get what they wanted.

“As WaterAid, we have made sure that they have potable water at the health facility, which will play a part in promoting good health.

“The good thing is that for this to work out, the people and the local leadership were united,” says Kampala.

Principle Environmental Health Officer (PEHO) at Kasungu District Health Office Reuben Chikadza acknowledges that it is hard to erect a health facility which has all necessities.

He says it is important to thank all who collaborated to have this structure.

“What remains is for us to make sure the personnel and drugs are available,” says Chikadza.

For Rhoda Chikanda and other women of Kapyanga, the sight of the health facility comes as a relief.

“What I went through was tough and shameful. I would not want fellow women to undergo the same. Luckily, we have a health facility nearby to serve all people here,” says Chikanda.

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