Background and Introduction

In Zambia, and according to the recent UNICEF and WHO Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP)1 access to basic water supply stands at 61 percent (rural at 44 percent and urban at 86 percent). Similarly, access to basic sanitation stands at 31 percent (rural at 19 percent and urban at 49 percent). It is noted that 15 percent (rural at 25 percent and urban at one percent) of the population practice open defecation. The presence of handwashing facilities with soap and water was reported in 14 percent of the households (rural at five percent and urban at 26 percent).

Poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene services coupled with a rapidly expanding population, poor urban planning, poor health seeking behaviour and impacts of climate change presents challenges for both public and environmental health. Cholera remains endemic in Zambia, and the country has, in the recent past, witnessed cholera outbreaks in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018 with 7,200; 7,300; 350; 1,348; 103 and 5,775 cases reported, respectively. Diarrhoea (non – bloody) remains among the top three causes of morbidity among children under five2 . At 17.9 percent, the prevalence of diarrhoea is higher among children under five living in urban areas, as compared to 15.1 percent among children in rural areas

Zambia is burdened by child stunting - the reduction rate of stunting prevalence among children under five years of age is less than one percentage point per year (from 45 percent in 2007 to 40 percent in 2014). Available evidence indicates that improved sanitation alone can decrease the risk of stunting by 13 percent, and the risk of severe stunting by 26percent.

Stunting and child morbidity and mortality can be reduced through low-cost, high-impact interventions which improve hygiene and sanitation in the most vulnerable communities of Zambia.

In this regard, sanitation is one of the best investments a government and partners can make, with cost-benefit analyses showing global rate of return of $5.5 for every $1 spent, ranging from $2.8 to $8.0 between developing regions.

In recognition of the above, the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) has set forth vision geared towards the attainment of universal access to clean and safe water supply and adequate sanitation for all by 2030. To actualise this vision, and of significance, was the creation of the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection (MWDSEP) in late 2016 as the lead ministry mandated with the responsibility for national water supply and sanitation (WSS). Under MWDSEP, the Vision for the Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) sector is “A Zambia where all users have access to water and sanitation and utilize them in an efficient and sustainable manner for wealth creation and improved livelihoods by 2030”.

In recognition of the challenges faced by the sanitation sub-sector and in pursuit of the above vision, the MWDSEP, sister ministries and its partners, is planning to hold a national sanitation summit to galvanise political and multi-stakeholder will, and existing commitments, into accelerated action aimed at ending open defecation in Zambia, and improved sanitation and hygiene services for all. The summit will be held from Monday, 19th November to Wednesday, 19th November 2018 in Lusaka.