Better water supply boosts development in Malawi’s Blantyre outskirt
Accessing portable and clean drinking water, a painstaking effort in the past, now has become a small task for women living in the outskirts of Blantyre, Malawi's second-largest city, thanks to a water kiosk project.
For years, most people living in Soche, a semi-urban area in Blantyre had problems accessing quality water supply due to low income and poor housing structures. Diarrhoea cases used to be rampant which in many cases led to deaths of infants.
The water kiosk project which has been in existence for some years in the city has become the most reliable source of safe water.
According to the Blantyre Water Board (BWB), the project was introduced with the aim of reducing intermittent water supply in the city and its outskirts.
Mudi dam, located in Blantyre city, is the main source of water and it has the capacity of producing 45,000 cubic meters of water. However, the dam does not supply enough water for the whole city, BWB constructed big water tanks in upper sides of the city which helps to supply a good pressure of water into the city and its outskirts.
The availability of water kiosks provided by the government through the Water Board has contributed largely to good health and hygiene among people living in the area.
The water kiosks are mainly managed by the Water Users Association (WUA) which has inclusive stakeholders from religious, political and traditional leaders. Over 500 households in Blantyre depend on these kiosks.
To sustain the kiosks, people in the community pay a very small amount of money which in return pay off the water bills at the kiosks. In an interview, several people mentioned that the kiosks are very convenient and cheap compared to private sources of water.
For a 20 litre bucket of water, people are required to pay 20 Malawi Kwacha which is equivalent to 3 U.S. cents. According to many, this is affordable.
A recent study shows that 70 percent of Malawi's urban population lives in informal settlements, where households regularly face chronic water insecurity. Lately, the Blantyre Water Board built water kiosks which have become a substitute for other sources of water.
Brenda Bandawe, 55, lives in Soche, a few kilometres from Limbe township in Blantyre. She has been in the area for over four decades.
She said, for years, she has witnessed outbreaks of different water-borne diseases so much that she lost her childhood friend because of cholera in 2002. She believes that the coming in of urbanization and development will cease the trend in the near future.
"For years our families have been depending on drilled wells and a big dam that is two kilometres away from our homes. Life was quite challenging then because our girls had to travel long distances to access safe water.
"Now that girls do not travel long distances to get water, there is more time for them to engage themselves in education and small businesses," she said.
As of now, people in the community no longer drink from unsafe sources of water. According to the traditional leader in the community, TA Chiwembe, the coming in of water kiosks in the area has largely contributed to the wellness of people in the community.
"We can say that the coming in of safe water in the area has also contributed to the development of this area and beyond. Now that we don't experience water-borne diseases regularly, both adults and children are pro-active in all community and personal activities," he said.
According to the World Bank, a 50 percent increase in urban water demand is anticipated within the next 30 years. Hence, there is a need for securing inclusive and sustainable water supplies in the cities. (Xinhua)