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Zambia, 10 January 2017: LuWSI: A unique and necessary approach to protecting Lusaka’s water

© UNICEF Zambia/2016/Habeenzu
UNICEF Country Representative, Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim, speaking at the launch.

During the morning of the LuWSI launch, the organizer admitted to having initially worried about attendance for the event, as it coincided with competing important government-wide discussions, but the launch ended up being a great success. Thus was the magnetic draw of one of the more unique initiatives introduced in Zambia – and on the global stage.

Lusaka’s demand for water, according to the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company, is currently estimated at 600,000 m3 per day; this far exceeds supply. Diana Caceres, the Junior Technical Advisor with the International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP) and the coordinator of the launch event, noted that by 2035, this demand will double, while the existing groundwater’s and utilities’ ability to supply it may not grow proportionally. Aggravating the disparity is the proliferation of unregistered and un-safe boreholes, especially in densely populated areas, which contribute to draining and polluting underground aquifers at a higher rate. Making matters more complicated is that Lusaka sources much of its water from the lengthy Kafue River, meaning that the protective interventions need to address more than Lusaka alone.

“This issue around water security speaks to many of the challenges that the Global Goals seek to address,” said Nicolas Osbert, the UNICEF Zambia Chief of WASH. The Global Goals, known more formally as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are a set of 17 aspirational targets that ask the global community to work towards in order to achieve the future we want. In addition to emphasizing and reinforcing the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs add extra emphasis to attaining water secure nations, open defecation free communities, sustainable and resource-efficient cities, and doing so through investing in public-private partnerships.

Which is what makes LuWSI all that more exciting for everyone who has been waiting for such an investment. Thanks to the co-financing from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Department for International Development (DFID), GIZ was able to initiate the framing of LuWSI’s goals and vision, which aim to build the “adaptability of water users to the impacts of climate change” through “improved private-sector participation in the reduction of shared water risks”, according to IWaSP’s mandate. Thus, by bringing together stakeholders from all backgrounds who have more in common than previously thought, LuWSI aims to create the space necessary for them all to find the common ground necessary to protect Lusaka’s water before it’s too late to turn back the dial on pollution.

Thus, on December 2nd, during the signing of the memorandum of understanding at the LuWSI launch, UNICEF Zambia Country Representative, Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim expressed delight to join the water Security Initiative as a steering board member because the initiative’s ambitions strongly reflected and complemented their own, as a United Nations agency dedicated to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. During his speech, he stated, “By tapping into a platform dedicated to building dialogue, UNICEF has greater potential in developing for itself a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. This is a new approach that keeps in mind the ultimate goal for lifting the most vulnerable out of poverty, but also understands that it cannot be done by government or NGOs alone.”

The Permanent Secretary of the newly formed Ministry of Water Supply, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Bishop Edward Chomba, echoed these sentiments, adding that such an initiative is in line with and makes it easier to achieve the Government’s 2030 Vision for a water-equitable Zambia. “In Zambia, we say ‘Water is Life’,” he told the audience of the launch. “You cannot talk about economic, food, or energy security until you deal with water security. It is up to us as Zambians to collaborate with all partners to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of a water secure nation.”

Currently, GIZ is the interim secretariat, but the seat is to be rotated every two years, says Caceres, to ensure that there is strong local ownership and buy-in power. So come the new year, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) will be taking GIZ’s place, and the organization has great hope and interest in the future of the initiative.

The LuWSI MoU was officially signed off by 16 local and international, public and private steering members, including members such as UNICEF, GIZ, Lusaka City Council, the University of Zambia, and Zambian Breweries to name a few. However, LuWSI is a larger collaboration of over 70 partners throughout Zambia.



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