The multiplier effect of safe water access

United Purpose | Rachel Dixon from United Purpose Malawi, on 10/01/2018 00:47 AEST

For over 13 years the community in Mwakhiwa village in TA Mkhumba in Phalombe district had no access to clean and safe water. The community relied on unprotected water sources such as swaps and open wells, resulting in regular cases of cholera.

My mother and I at one point suffered from cholera because of drinking water from the open well. Lucky enough we were taken to the clinic early and we survived,” narrated Agnes Adam, one of the community members. Between 2015 and 2016, the village registered 8 cases of cholera.

To access safe water, community members used to draw water from a borehole in a neighbouring village 7km away. As a result of this long distance, children in the village used to go to school very late and women had to leave as early as 4 am, spending 4-5 hours each day collecting water. This left them with limited time to do other productive activities such as farming.

Recognising the many negative effects of a lack of safe water access, the community shared their grievances to their Village Development Committee (VDC), who in turn took up the issue with the Area Development Committee (ADC) who then contacted Phalombe District council. Phalombe District Council approached United Purpose, who together verified the issue and decided to upgrade the existing open well once the community had mobilised local resources to contribute to the developments.  

"Since the shallow well was constructed (in June, 2017) there has been reduced diarrhoeal diseases and no case of cholera that has been recorded so far here at Mwakhiwa village,” narrated Jean Medison, the chair of the water point committee at Mwakhiwa. The shallow well has helped in many ways, for example children no longer go school late, and women now have more time for other activities.

The water point committee at Mwakhiwa has been trained in community based management and committee members are able to maintain the borehole’s functionality as well as keeping the surrounding areas clean. “I am very grateful to United Purpose for  providing my village with a shallow well. It has helped a lot in ensuring that people have access to clean water closely and  has  addressed many water challenges we were facing in the past,” said the Chief of Mwakhiwa village.