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Zambia: Lusaka Central Business District an Eyesore

For years now the Lusaka CBD has remained unchanged and efforts by local authorities to uplift the standard have failed, resulting in some critics labelling the capital city as the hub of cholera

A WALK or drive along one of Lusaka’s Central Business District’s (CBD) streets or avenues lays bare a filthy picture of the city and defines a failure of the solid waste management system at the local administration level.

Though some may argue that the serious health hazard that has been allowed to go on unabated for years was beyond the corridors of local management, it is however clear that there have been serious gaps in the management of waste in the entire city.

This is evident in the picture of the CBD especially this year as street after street depicts a lack of proper and efficient waste collection and disposal system.

The old-fashioned Cairo Road, the notorious Freedom Way, Cha Cha Road, and Lumumba Road, including several that crisscross the CBD, appear like streets in a Hollywood movie depicting a fourth-century alley.

Especially now, during the rainy season, where ever one gazes, there are heaps of uncollected garbage, littered plastic bottles of ‘drowned’ potent alcohol, and pools of smelly water, in some cases stretching for metres along the streets.

Blocked drainages, bust sewer pipes with faecal matter oozing into the streets, and waterlogged public places like Kulima Bus Station, which appear like a swimming pool after a heavy downpour, somewhat completes the picture of what the CBD in Lusaka looks like.

The second-class business district popularly known as Kamwala, is another complicated piece in the health hazard jigsaw puzzle that adds up to what is making Lusaka residents and those curious ones living outside the Capital City raise eyebrows and frown.

Additionally, the confusion unleashed by public transporters in the CBD is another piece of hazard that many residents cannot digest. Uncoordinated car parking, even on islands in full view of law enforcement officers, and undesignated bus stops also tell a different story.

Street kids, now more violent than before, prowl the CBD streets, sleeping in shop corridors, looking for food and now even mugging night lovers of their valuables.

The state of Lusaka is not just a concern here at home but outside the country. The city is described by many city analysts and health environmentalists as one of the dirtiest cities in Africa.

For years now the CBD in Lusaka has remained unchanged and efforts by local authorities to uplift the standard have failed, resulting in some critics labeling the Capital City as the hub of cholera.

Since 1977, Zambia has experienced Cholera with Lusaka being one of the main hotspots each year when the disease breaks out.

The height of the disease was when four outbreaks hit and more than 10,000 cases were recorded in 1991, 1992, 1999 and 2004 mostly in peri-urban areas of Lusaka and the Copperbelt.

It is well known now that Zambia’s cholera outbreaks are strangely concentrated in the capital city, especially in the low-income, high-density informal settlements such as Kanyama, Chawama and Msisi that surround the CBD.

The face of cholera in Lusaka is not new; the disease has continued for years to pop up since the first major outbreak in 1990, and since then, cases have been recorded every year, and always correspond to the rainy season, which lasts from October to May.

The problem was now perennial and largely linked to a poor and inefficient solid waste management system in most high-density areas including the CBD.

Action taken has always been crackdowns on street vendors because they hugely contribute to the filthy picture of the CBD often through the many illegal activities they undertake.

These are viewed as soft targets who always remerge just weeks after being removed from the streets. Nevertheless, they are critical cholera catalysts.

For a long time, the lack of a longstanding approach to keep vendors off the streets because of political expediency has undermined efforts to address the issue.

Also, this has allowed street vending to mushroom to unsustainable levels, with clear negative implications for the health and sanitation of Lusaka residents, including the vendors themselves.

In a city where cholera has been an annual event for the last two decades, informal vending must be effectively and also humanely managed to improve basic sanitation while avoiding unpredictable bans that hurt some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.

Now, cholera has hit again with the Zambia National Public Health Institute saying close to a thousand cases have been reported in Lusaka, Luangwa and Chongwe areas in the Province.

Over 100 deaths have been recorded so far and most of these taking place in Lusaka with cumulative caseload surpassing the 3,000 mark.

“The government has enforced Statutory Instrument Number 18 of 2018, which incriminates the selling and buying of goods on the streets. Bars, bus stops, churches, sporting facilities and other public places are required to maintain very high hygiene standards,” Gary Nkombo, the Local Government and Rural Development Minister, said last week.

Health Minister Sylvia Masebo also said: “We have deployed over 800 community-based volunteers to ensure early case identification and isolation.”

The Lusaka City Council (LCC), a fortnight ago, swung into action disinfecting public places like markets and introduced waste bins in selected spots in the CBD as intervention measures to slow down the raging cholera.

On the other hand, Lusaka City Mayor Chilando Chitangala urged all community-based enterprises (CBEs) contracted to collect solid waste management to up their game as the Capital City population now at over 3 million was generating about 1,500 tonnes of waste garbage per day.