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Government is concerned about the low number of people who have access to proper sanitation and hygiene services in the country.

And 28 community pioneers have been trained to spearhead sanitation activities aimed at discouraging open defecation in their respective communities in Kapiri Mposhi district.

Ministry of Local Government and Housing Community Development Officer, Paul Mbosha said over 80 percent of diseases in Zambia emanate from lack of access to improved sanitation.

According to the 2012 World Health Organisation (WHO) monitoring report, over six million people in Zambia live without access to toilets and improved sanitation.

Out of these six million people, 2.5 million practice open defecation.

This came to light during a Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) workshop in Kapiri Mposhi at which 28 community pioneers drawn from across the district were trained to spearhead sanitation activities aimed at discouraging open defecation in their respective communities.

CLTS is a UNICEF funded approach which is aimed at encouraging and empowering local communities to stop open defecation (OD) and start building and using latrines.

Mr. Mbosha said lack of access to improved sanitation contributes to the high prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases adding that there was need for local solutions and innovations aimed at enhancing sanitation and ending open defecation.

“Open defecation is not a reflection of poverty but a traditional practice which has continued to exceedingly contribute to the high cases of disease outbreaks such as cholera in our communities. We need effective public education so that people understand the hazards of open defecation,” Mr. Mbosha said.

He said Zambia risks not achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number seven which aims at reducing by half the number of people who don’t have access to basic sanitation if open defecation was not stopped.

“Millions of people are still using bushes to defecate because they do not have toilets. We need to sensitise people to build basic and affordable toilet structures if we are to achieve MDG number seven and reduce diarrheal diseases,” he stressed.

CLTS triggers the community’s desire for change and propels them into action to develop local solutions to improve sanitation in their localities.

And Kapiri Mposhi District Council Secretary Hamwende Mpande challenged the trained community CLTS pioneers to implement their acquired skills to address various sanitation challenges in their communities.

Mr. Mpande has since urged community leaders to persuade residents in their communities to construct and use toilets.

He also urged headmen to monitor sanitation change movements in their villages.