Harsh reality of water poverty first hand
Twelve volunteers from the water sector in the UK have just returned from a fact-finding mission to Zambia in southern Africa.
The professionals, all fundraisers for the international charity WaterAid which helps bring water and sanitation to some of the world's poorest people, experienced the appalling slum conditions in Lusaka first hand. They met children who had no choice but to bathe and drink from the same filthy river that the nearby pit latrines and rubbish piles were seeping into.
However, they also celebrated the huge difference the charity has made in other locations, for example in Silimi village they relished the chance to get their hands dirty, helping the community to construct new latrines.
A range of tasks were taken on from building a latrine platform, to repairing a structure's roof, to lining a pit with bricks to keep the human waste contained and safe. This is a community which now proudly declares that it is 100% defecation free - meaning all the households have access to a toilet.
The twelve supporters were all given the chance to draw water from the hand-pump too, whilst the village women danced and sang. Sally Gronow of Welsh Water explains: "The song was about giving thanks for the water they had and that they were so happy we were with them - again incredibly humbling. As well as the water pump, all the households in the village have their own latrine - which everyone said had really helped improve their quality of life."
School children shared with them their stories of how life has changed for the better since the toilets were constructed, especially the girls, whose attendance has increased by 90%. They no longer have to miss school to go and collect water, or because they are menstruating.
Ruben Mpundu, the head teacher at Chiyoobola School said, "In 2008 our prayers were answered when the toilets and hand-washing tanks were constructed. We are swimming together in the river of development."
WaterAid's development manager, Nikki Skipper, said: "The money raised by all the fundraisers helps WaterAid change the lives of some of the world's poorest people, bringing safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.
This was a great opportunity for them to see first-hand how their hard work and generosity has made a real difference to communities in Zambia."