Rural communities in Malawi face regular droughts and floods, as well as health risks such as diarrhoea and cholera, but a new project is helping to change this
Rural communities in Malawi face regular droughts and floods, as well as health risks such as diarrhoea and cholera, but a new project is helping to change this.
In 2015, UNICEF contractors arrived to install a solar-powered water pump in Kunja village, replacing a well frequented by locals up until that point which had unsafe drinking water and was located 5km from the village.
In order to be successful, the pump needed to be able to withstand shocks and natural disasters.
A drill was used to access water deeper underground than a hand pump could reach, meaning water would be available even through droughts when the water table drops.
The whole community contributed to the pump’s construction, digging trenches and fetching water with which to make concrete.
The pump now provides water to local villages and schools and operators visit daily to test the water quality and chlorine levels.
Before the pump’s construction, children were prevented from going to school by the need to travel all day to fetch water from the well, or from becoming sick from drinking the unsafe water.
They were vulnerable to attack if returning to the village from the well after dark, and whole families starved due to insufficient harvests caused by droughts.
Now, the community is engaged in protecting the new water source and understanding the value of safe water.
Representatives from local villages have formed a committee which raises money to pay the pump operators and tap attendants, as well as to make basic repairs.
An initiative has recently started to fundraise for a garden, fed by the pump, to be planted in the village, so that its produce can be sold to raise money for maintenance and major repairs.
As a direct result of the project, attendance at the local primary school has increased from 300 to 449 children.
UNICEF Malawi’s Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Paulos Workneh said: “[The pump is] low maintenance and should last for at least 10 years.
“And solar power is cheaper, environment-friendly and more sustainable than relying on expensive diesel generators.”
Headmaster Kapalamula, at the local primary school, said: “The learners have water to drink and to wash their hands after using the toilet.
“Our school grades have improved because of better attendance.
“We’re attracting better teachers and they stay for longer.
“Our school has become a desirable place to work, because of the pump.”
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