Growing up without running water in Kabanana Compound, a community on the outskirts of Zambia’s capital, Beatrice Phiri discusses how she got to see first-hand the dramatic effects of climate change.
Much of my life has revolved around the pursuit of water. Living in my community was challenging because we all endured the difficult task of fetching water. For most families, this was the responsibility of the girls and women. So from the age of 15, it was my duty to ensure my family had enough water for the day.
I had to wake up as early as 4am and walk 20 minutes for this task. My family and I had to use as little water as possible so that we would save most of it for drinking and cooking. I was usually exhausted by the time I made it to class, which began at 7am.
Fetching water always made me nervous because of the possibility of getting attacked or defiled on the way. Another hard reality was that I often fought with other girls and women, and sometimes even the boys and men, to ensure that I had a share of water for my family.
Global climate change exacerbated this great challenge of fetching water in my community. During the 2015-16 rainfall season, Zambia faced a huge problem — little to no rain in most parts of the country. This was also a time when temperatures worldwide continued to soar. In 2016, each of the first six months of the year set the record for the warmest month in modern temperature records, which dates back to 1880.
“Climate change is an issue that needs every human’s attention. For many people, it’s just a buzzword, climate change hasn’t made an impact on their lives. Yet.”
In Kabanana Compound, climate change caused our lakes to dry up meaning that most homes did not have water. And some days, we did not have electricity. As the situation continued to worsen, some parts of the community even became affected with cholera due to lack of proper water and sanitation. This made members of my community completely helpless.
Luckily, some heavy rains during the beginning of 2017 helped stabilize the situation. But it proved that climate change can be very unpredictable and can also be devastating to the most vulnerable.
Our actions have led us to a huge disaster. Mankind’s continuous oblivion and contribution to global warming will make life catastrophically difficult for billions of people around the world.
“Our actions have led us to a huge disaster. Mankind’s continuous oblivion and contribution to global warming will make life catastrophically difficult for billions of people around the world.”
Somewhere in a developing country there is a girl or boy experiencing the same challenges I have, some in a much worse situation. They lack a voice because those with power remain silent on the environmental issues that take away basic rights to survival.
They lack education on climate change because government, the private sector, NGOs, civil society organisations and many others haven’t given them opportunities to learn. They lack solutions because even though most people know we should be addressing climate change, our societies haven’t taken serious efforts and action.
Climate change is an issue that needs every human’s attention. For many people, it’s just a buzzword, climate change hasn’t made an impact on their lives. Yet. But imagine what this world would look like if we continue ignoring climate change: more dry rivers and lakes, more fires, more polluted air, diminishing resources, and no sustainable energy to turn to. Communities will wither, but for those of us in developing countries, it has already begun.
Beatrice Phiri is a youth reporter with Children’s Radio Foundation and a student at Cavendish University. She lives in Lusaka, Zambia, where she has become a champion of environmental and climate change activism. In 2017, she won second prize in the Girls Radio Competition organized by Plan International: Zambia and Africa Directions: Zambia. You can find her on Twitter @BeatricePhiri15Follow @BeatricePhiri15