Zambia: Cleanliness - Charity Begins At Home

LAST week, the Ministry of Health reported that Lusaka had recorded more than 2000 cases of cholera out of which more than 50 people had already died.

It is sad that every rainy season Zambia has to lose life to such preventable diseases as cholera!

This tragedy made the President Edgar Lungu to call on the Military to supervise the Lusaka CBD Clean-Up.

The Government has been highly commended to have come up with such a strategy.

It should be expanded to include all parts of Lusaka and indeed the whole country, especially the urban areas. In the Times of Zambia edition of January 4, 2018, the Government said that four suspected cholera cases had been recorded in Lundazi District out of which one person had already died.

Although street vending has greatly contributed to open disposal of garbage but this challenge of open disposal of garbage goes beyond street vending to include social change dynamics of urbanization and the synergy of conflicting rural and urban life attitudes, practices and values.

Most African urban areas, including Zambian urban areas, experience the challenge of open and illegal disposal of garbage and waste.

Garbage or waste is any substance or object which the holder discards, intends or is required to discard or throw away.

Scattered, openly and illegally thrown garbage or waste is a common sight in most African urban areas.

It is also common to see a person living on the third floor of an eight-storied building sweeping the waste away in the air just to fall on any of the other floors! One often sees people openly throwing garbage or waste while they are sitting, standing, walking, eating, on a bicycle or motor-cycle, in a car, bus, truck or train with little consideration of what will happen to that garbage or waste left behind. According to the Road Traffic Act Number 11 of 2002 it is a punishable offence for any person to throw articles from a vehicle.

Chiwempala Ward Councillor in Chingola Jacob Pepala observed: 'The disposal of garbage at the market near the railway line was escalating. Despite waste bins being put in place, marketeers were still disposing of their garbage near the railway line posing a danger to those residents.

"Despite the sensitization made by the councils, people have refused to be paying in order for waste companies to collect garbage on their behalf and a disease outbreak was looming. Residents from near the compound throw garbage at night and during the day which is difficult to control by the council."

But what is the root-cause of open disposal of garbage or waste in African urban areas?

While there are many secondary causes but the primary cause is a negative mind-set or a rural habit of thinking! A mind-set is a fixed state or way of thinking and there are only two types of mind-sets: a positive mind-set and a negative mind-set. A positive mind-set has such positive values as integrity or honesty; personal responsibility; cleanliness; consideration of others; fairness; self-confidence; knowledge; forgiveness; and concern while a negative mind-set has such negative values as anger; greed and corruption; blame; dirtiness; jealousy; selfishness; doubt; ignorance; hatred; revenge; superstition; witchcraft; and worry.

Urban areas generally tend to be more positive than rural areas. A positive mind-set leads to positive attitudes, practices and values which in turn lead to a clean and healthy environment and a clean and healthy environment leads to development and wealth-creation.

As such, a change in thinking must always precede or come before any change in the environment. This is because the garbage or waste on the ground is only the effect or result of a thought in one's own mind. In other words, a thought in a person's mind is the primary cause of the condition of garbage or waste on the ground while the condition of garbage or waste is only the result.

When you change the thought inside of a person's mind you automatically change the environment and if you want to sustainably clean the environment you must, first, clean the mind of the people who use that environment.

This strategy goes beyond mere citizen and community sensitization to include a positive mind-set change education that trains people on how to achieve and maintain a clean environment conducive for good health, development and wealth-creation. This positive mind-set change for a clean urban environment involves every citizen and community.

Former Local Government and Housing Minister Stephen Kampyongo in line with the 'Keep Zambia Clean and Healthy Campaign' once said: 'The government is geared to keep Zambia clean to reduce waterborne diseases such as cholera, but this effort requires support from various stakeholders... Efforts to eradicate cholera required the input of all the individuals in all localities'.

In Africa and in Zambia, there are two broad types of waste disposal and management systems, rural and urban. The rural one involves mostly burning, compositing and recycling. But it is common to see people in urban areas still using the rural areas' type of open waste disposal and management system, which seriously endangers urban public health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as 'State of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity'. Flies, mosquitoes and rats as disease vectors breed and find food in waste dumps and blocked drains. Rats also damage electrical cables and burning plastics and other waste releases toxic gases into the air.

There is a great need in African urban areas to adopt a new habit of contained and legal waste disposal and management. Here is why. In rural areas, the type of waste generated, disposed of and managed is drastically different from that of urban areas as it is more than 90 per cent of bio-degradable materials like banana and cassava peels; millet, maize, sorghum and rice husks; grass and leaves; ash; twigs; animal waste; and similar others most of which is either burned or recycled, especially in the rainy season for manure.

On the other hand, in urban areas the garbage or waste consists of asphalt; asbestos; damaged household appliances; concrete; hazardous clinical waste; metal; oil; plastic; rubber; old clothes; liquid hazardous waste; paper; glass; ceramic; paint; commercial and industrial waste; demolition and construction debris; excavation waste; tailings; hazardous chemicals; electronic or e-waste; and similar dangerous others which cannot be easily burned or recycled for manure!

In addition, African urban areas experience high rates of urbanization, modernization and industrialization which have made the generation of waste beyond the handling capacities of most waste management authorities and put stress on sometimes fragile environment and eco-systems.

Systemic drivers of national insecurity include climate change, economic inequality, extreme poverty, marginalization, political exclusion, rapid urbanization, health epidemics and similar adverse conditions. For example, in 2009, Russia adopted the 'National Security Strategy to 2020' and according to its Number 6 Provision, national security is 'The situation in which the individual, the society and the state enjoy protection from foreign and domestic threats to the degree that ensures constitutional rights and freedoms, decent quality of life for citizens, as well as sovereignty, territorial integrity and stable development of the Russian Federation, the defense and security of the state'.

Sweden's National Security Strategy of 2017 declared that 'Wider security measures must also now encompass protection against epidemics and infectious diseases, combating terrorism and organized crime, ensuring safe transport and reliable food supplies, protecting against energy supply interruptions, countering devastating climate change, initiatives for peace and global development, and much more'.

The Clean-Up Exercise in Zambia should be on-going for every four months to teach the people, and especially the young, about cleanliness. Indeed, cleanliness like charity must begin at home! Parents have a big responsibility to teach their children to practice cleanliness wherever they are.

A continuous and national positive mind-set change education is vital to teach people about cleanliness and to exercise personal responsibility to put waste only in designated, contained and legal places in order to promote a clean Zambian urban environment and national good health.

Author is a Motivational Mentor and Consultant in Positive Mind-Set Change. Email:

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