Zambia: UTH Water Blues Annoy Sata

PRESIDENT Michael Sata yesterday directed University Teaching Hospital (UTH) management and Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) to immediately resolve the water crisis at the highest referral institution in the country.

The President, who made an impromptu visit to UTH, said a lasting solution should be found immediately.

Mr Sata arrived at UTH around 11:00 hours at the paediatric section before checking on the water system at the main distribution point.

He said UTH should never have erratic water supply as it was a vital institution whose purpose was to offer quality health and teaching services.

"I don't want this place to run out of water, I would rather the whole Lusaka has no water, but this place must have water. Go back and make sure that the reservoir tanks, upstairs and underground are all full.

"You can't have a person who is sick staying without water. Can you imagine if it is your own relative who is sick and he has no water," President Sata said.

The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) on Wednesday reported that operations at the UTH theatre had been suspended because of the water problem.

Health Minister Joseph Kasonde, Local Government and Housing Minister Emerine Kabanshi and Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) officials accompanied the President.

He took to task LWSC director of Engineering, Wilson Shane on why the hospital was facing serious water problems.

Mr Sata who demanded to know how much water was in the overhead reservoir tank at the time of the visit never got a satisfactory answer as officials did not have accurate data.

Mr Shane said LWSC always prioritised the supply of water to UTH.

"If there is no water in Lusaka, we close off the valve at High Court roundabout just to make sure that the ground tank here has water for UTH," he said.

He could not give the exact litres of water under storage in the overhead tank as LWSC's services ended at providing water to the ground facility.

The UTH overhead tank has a capacity of 1.08 million cubic litres of water but at the time of the President's visit there was only about 40,000 litres.

Mr Sata could also not accept Ms Kabanshi's explanation that the water problem was as a result of Zesco power outage.

Mr Sata said UTH should have standby generators which automatically switch on in an event of a power outage.

UTH Managing Director Lackson Kasonka attributed the water problem to "delayed rain" which had led to the water table going down.

Dr Kasonka said in an interview that UTH depended on rain water for good levels of water in the Kafue River and the underground.

He said the water levels in the Kafue River were low and as a result LWSC could only give UTH water which it could manage to harvest from the source.

He said the boreholes at Libala plant were also low and could not give much water as they did three or four months ago.

"We need to use this water very sparingly so that the little that we have at our disposal is reserved for clinical care," Dr Kasonka said.

Dr Kasonka said the last two days had been problematic and if the status quo remained the same some services at the hospital would be disrupted.

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