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According to the United Nations Development Program, 48% of the population in rural areas in Zambia have access to improved water infrastructure, while 88% in urban areas have access. With increased cost-recovery policies and privatization of water fewer can afford to use the water they have access to. And even when infrastructure exists the water supply is sporadic, particularly in poor neighborhoods. As a result, poor families are forced to spent up to 50% of their income on water bought from small vendors.

The Zambian president, Levy Mwanawasa, has continuously warned the IMF and the World Bank about the conditions attached to loans to the country. The multilateral institutions have enforced privatization of many key public institutions with disastrous effects. According to the president, forced privatization has contributed to higher levels of poverty and increased unemployment. In order to qualify for relief on a mountainous debt of US$6.5 billion, Zambia is conditioned to privatize public utilities. It is estimated that the conditions imposed by the banks have led to a loss of at least 105,000 jobs in the past 10 years. According to Zambia’s labor unions, almost 90% of the population find their income in the informal sector, rewarding only a meager and unstable income. The World Bank estimates that 80% of the population lives in poverty (under US$1/day). Zambia’s problems were initiated with the falling terms of trade and the heavy reliance on copper export.

Many poor families rely on a contaminated water supply and in the rainy seasons their supply is further jeopardized with cholera epidemics. In the 1970s, households were able to access 200 liters of water for free every day – a sustainable amount of water for a family of 4, an amount that covers the most essential needs for a family of 8.

The World Bank wanted to reap efficiencies and charge for the water. As a result, a water sector reform was pushed by several donors, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank, Germany, Norway and Ireland. The World Bank strategy has been to encourage increased private investment and removal of public subsidies for the provision – a $33 million loan in 1995 from the World Bank. As a result, large numbers of families are disconnected from a service that was already erratic.

In the News:
Selling Zambia's Water: Unveiling Privatization in Lusaka
Privatisation of social sector was a blunder

April 5: Life under the IMF’s magnifying glass: A Zambian civil servant chafes at the collar
May 24:  If the IMF Could Do This to Zambia...
February 23: Cholera halts school feeding
January 30: Government acts to contain cholera

July 22: We won’t reconnect water to consumers--KWSC
February 11: IMF urged to understand privatisation concerns

November 28: World Bank Colonialism

    » cmep | Water | cmep Water | reports | zambia

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