6 April 2014

Zambia: Chavuma Undergoes Facelift

LOCATED about 607 kilometres from Solwezi, the headqaurters of North-Western, Chavuma is by far, the furthest district in the province lying right at the border of Angola.

Chavuma, with a population of over 35, 041 people, according to the Central Statistic census report of 2010, is divided into two geographical parts; the East Bank and West Bank separated by the great Zambezi River.

Despite having attained the district status in 1996, Chavuma has been lagging in development as it did not have major social infrastructure that includes a district hospital, boarding school, a modern police station and many others.

The few infrastructure that existed comprised some isolated small buildings housing offices for the district administration that could be only traced on the East Bank but which, again, was nothing much to write home about.

In the past, the mere thought of visiting or settling in Chavuma was probably unheard of. Settling in this place was considered the worst nightmare and therefore a non-starter.

However, this is fast changing as Chavuma is now undergoing 'marked' transformation following the massive Government infrastructure development projects taking root in key sectors of the economy such as education, health, transport and communication, and many others.

Government has injected huge amount of money in infrastructure development projects aimed at giving the district a facelift.

The massive investment in infrastructure development has turned out to be the perfect catalyst for further economic boom for Chavuma going by the influx of people the district is witnessing.

A recent visit to Chavuma by this author to check on the current district outlook revealed that the area was on the right path of transformation.

District Commissioner Lawrence Kayumba, who was on hand to take this author on a conducted tour of the district, certainly did not mince his words when he said the area had awoken from slumber going by the economic boom ignited by the development activities.

"You don't need to put on glasses to see that there is development in Chavuma. The newly constructed tarmac from Solwezi coming all the way to the district has been the turning point for this area in terms of development," he said.

Mr Kayumba said unlike in the past, vehicles were now on a monthly basis seen being brought into the district because of the new tarred road, which reached Chavuma last year.

The district commissioner said for the first time in history, Chavuma now has a bank in the name of National Saving and Credit Bank to provide financial services to residents.

But more importantly for the development of Chavuma, he said, the area was for the first time in its history since independence poised to have the first district hospital and a boarding school, a real mark of development in the district.

Mr Kayumba said this was in addition to the many other infrastructure development projects that included a local court and other ordinary secondary schools Government was constructing in the district.

He said construction of the District Hospital at a cost of K22 million had reached an advanced stage with the project now in its second phase and nearing completion.

"This is the first ever district hospital Government is constructing in Chavuma and so far, phase one of the project which included construction of a kitchen, laundry, X-ray, theatre and maternity annex has been completed.

"The project has now gone to phase two which involves construction of the administration block, out-patient ward (OPD), male ward and four staff houses," he said.

Mr Kayumba said the hospital was earmarked to open as soon as phase two and in particular the OPD were completed.

He said the project design included phase three component involving the construction of 10 low cost staff houses but that would have to be executed while the hospital was in operation.

"Hospital staffscomprising a doctor and nurses have already been posted but we have in the meantime attached them to other clinics as we wait for completion of the district hospital," he said.

Mr Kayumba said the construction of Chavuma District Hospital was a big relief to residents because this would save them from the trouble of having to travel to Zambezi to access medical services.

Mr Kayumba said construction of the K27 million Chavuma Boarding School, also the first-ever boarding school in the district, had completed and pupils had since been enrolled except they were still coming from their respective homes as electricity and water have not yet been installed.

He said the school opened last year having had all the facilities such as ablution blocks, dormitories, kitchen required for a boarding institution completed.

Chavuma Boarding School headteacher Victor Muntanga said already, 404 pupils had been enrolled from Grade eight to eleven at the school.

"The demand for school places especially for senior level is high and we had to export some pupils to other districts because the institution couldn't absorb all," he said.

Mr Muntanga said the construction of this first boarding school in the district would definitely provide some relief to parents without sufficient money to send their children to schools outside the district.

Chavuma District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) Richard Kasoma was equally thrilled with the construction of the boarding school, which he said was a big relief and a step in the right direction in addressing the problem of pregnancies among school girls.

Rev Kasoma said school girls in Chavuma had been prone to pregnancies because of living in rented houses near secondary schools because of lack of boarding facilities in the area previously.

Statistics for school girls falling pregnant provided by Rev Kasoma, indicated that Chavuma had been recording not less than 100 pregnancies among school children every since 2008.

According the statistic records, Chavuma in 2008 recorded 141 pregnancies among school girls with the number showing a minimal decline to come to 132 pregnancies in 2009.

In 2010, the district recorded 130 pregnancies among school girls while 2012 saw 137 school girls falling pregnant with 2012 and 2013 having 109 and 118 pupils being pregnant respectively.

Rev Kosama attributed this to mainly the conduct by school children who were in the habit of leaving their respective homes to go and stay in rented homes near schools especially secondary level.

He said this was in a quest to overcome the burden of having to cover long distances.

"So we have had a number of girls especially from the West Bank staying in rented homes near secondary schools in order to access education but this made them vulnerable and most of them succumbed to peer-pressure and ended up falling pregnant," he said.

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