Malawi vice president Chilima calls for Water Boards to reduce water pricing to fight COVID-19

By Raphael Mweninguwe
Malawi vice president Saulos Chilima has called on the country’s Water Boards to reduce the price of wster so that many Malawians can have access to it so that they can water to wash their hands all the time.
Chilima said this in Lilongwe at a press conference he held on Wednesday morning.
He said keeping hygiene is crucial in fighting Covid-19 and failure by the Water Boards to reduce water pricing means failure to fight the pandemic.
“Based on the current economic situation with lockdown many people will not have enough money even to pay for water. There having the price of water reduced will help in fighting the disease,” he said.
He also warned government officials not to take advantage of the people’s misfortunes by pocketing money meant for coronavirus fight.
The International Monetary Fund is giving Malawi $150 million to fight Covid-19 and Chilima warns against misuse of funds.
“May I call upon the committee [Presidential Committee on coronavirus] not to enrich themselves through allowances at the expense of the poor Malawians. You will be held accountable for this money that donors are giving out,” he said.
At the time of writing this article Malawi had 8 confirmed cases of coronavirus with one recoded death.
It remains to be seen whether government will take any heed of the advice or not. Similar calls have been made in the past but the country’s Water Boards never took them seriously and never reduced price of water.

Wash is critical in COVID-19 fight

By Raphael Mweninguwe
Water and improved sanitation and hygiene have become critical tools in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19) not only in Malawi but the world over.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), a UN agency taking the lead in the world against coronavirus fight says one of the measures required in dealing with coronavirus is that people must “regularly and thoroughly clean their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.”
WHO which declared the disease as a pandemic a few weeks ago says washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on one’s hands.
Countries around the globe are on lockdowns and businesses are shutting down and nothing is currently on the move. The economies are in tatters and schools and offices have closed down.
But water, sanitation and hygiene are proving to be important tools in the fight against coronavirus. In Malawi, for example, the Ministry of Health has put up some measures aimed at dealing with the coronavirus and one of which is hand-washing with soap.
Other means of dealing with the problem include maintaining social distance of about 1 metre apart; practicing respiratory hygiene; and seeking medical attention.
A few days ago, this writer, crossed the border between Malawi and Zambia and it was sad to note that at the Malawi border as you enter from Zambia, there was a bucket of water outside the Immigration Office but there was no soap for people to wash their hands with.
“Why is this place having no soap?” I asked one of the staffs working at the Immigration Office.
“But there was one only that it is finished,” was the answer.
If the whole Department of Immigration is not seen to be taking serious measures to contain the out-break what will happen to those people living in the rural areas who are poor and cannot even afford small bar of soap worth MK100.
In the rural areas of Lilongwe an old man, Alufeyo Mailosi, 67, says the problem is that in most rural areas water is scarce and for people to be washing hands on a regular basis may not only be cumbersome but also a waste on the little water that they have.
Asaire Kapira of Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), says in Malawi the functionality rate of most water points is at 70% within the 2 years of water installation.
This is an indication that most places in Malawi water is a problem and if that is happening it means that even sanitation and hygiene are also problematic.
So with the COVID-19 crisis Malawi as a country needs serious attention to issues of water provision, sanitation and hygiene with a lot of awareness.
But at the time of writing this article official information from government indicates that the country has no known case of coronavirus.
However, social media reports are awash with information that some people in Malawi are dying of coronavirus, a situation denied by the Ministry of Health.
Ministry of Health statistics show that 36.2% of the 18 million people have hand-washing facilities and only 11% of these use soap for hand washing.
A majority of the population in the country are poor and they cannot even afford to have soap to wash their own clothes and use it for bathing. For them to get soap and wash their hands as a way of fighting coronavirus, is a tall order.
“Most people do not have money to buy soap. I don’t know if they can even have money to buy soap to wash their hands for the sake of fighting the disease that they have not seen anyone die of it,’ said Ellen Kaliza, 35.
Kaliza, a mother of three living in the Mbuka Village in Traditional Authority Chimutu in Lilongwe, says hands washing is only possible if you have water with you. She said most women are struggling to get clean water for drinking arguing that most of the water points are not working and women walk distances to access water.
She is, however, positive that many Malawians will take the coronavirus issue seriously with or without water. She says although hand washing could not be the only solutions, people “may use other means to fight the disease.”
The fight against coronavirus is the responsibility of everyone but those who are poor, may still was hands with other alcohol based tool as directed by WHO.
Government needs to be taking the lead in the fight to protect its citizens. As it stands now it appears that government leadership is busy fighting for its political survival with the elections case pending in the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Despite the political crisis this country is in, water, improved sanitation and hygiene must be some of the most valuable tools to take into consideration in the fight against COVID-19. It is the prayer of everyone that Malawians are spared from this deadly disease. They are already poor and they have no muscle to fight the disease, even though water and sanitation have become instant tools to fight it.

East Africa CSOs bang heads together

by Raphael Mweninguwe

East Africa civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are meeting in Kigali, Rwanda to develop workplans that are “customised to their context” in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

The meeting is also re-igniting  a momentum in building a strong and vibrant CSO movement that is empowered to influence policies, budgetary allocations and decision making processes towards inclusive sustainable WASH within the region by 2022/23.

One of the key objectives of the meeting is to build a common agenda on WASH advocacy among civil society networks for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6.

The meeting runs between 4-6 September 2019. It has attracted a number of CSOs working in the sector from East Africa Region with funding from the East Africa WaterAid regional Office.

At the end of the meeting it is expected that a singular East Africa CS action plan formulated around a common agenda on WASH advocacy and also cohesive messages are developed on the prioritized theme.



SawamNet Meet Opens in Joberg

Johannesburg,16 April 2019-Southern Africa Wash Media Network (SawamNet) training workshop has opened in South Africa in Johannesburg today.

The workshop has drawn participants from media houses from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. The aim of the workshop is to equip the media with the skills in reporting Wash in the region.

Southern Africa Wash Regional Office is sponsoring the workshop.

The meeting will take three days and Chilufya Chileshe from WaterAid Regional Office opened the workshop.

She called on participants to use the meeting for the good of their journalism career and report of Wash sector.


Water crisis hits some Ntcheu Communities

A 3.72 million cubic metres Mpira dam in Ntcheu district in the central region of Malawi is gone. And a total of 500,000 people are without water.
The reason for this crisis is simply because government is not interested to helping communities to be supplied with clean water.
The construction of the dam was finalized in 1993 and soon after its construction people had no water problems. Boreholes were also drilled in the area where the dam is situation but today its just history.
Because the dam is dry due to negligence coupled with climate change communities have resorted to walking long distances in search of water.
But government is promising that something will be done to help communities get the much needed water for their lives.
With rains now falling communities hope that the levels of water in the dam will improve and government hopes that this too will improve the situation.
Ntcheu district is one of the 28 districts in the country facing serious water crisis and government has been promising communities to improve on water supply but the situation seems not changing.
Many other areas are without proper water supply and with high levels of corruption currently underway it remains to be seen whether communities, not only in Ntcheu and other districts will be supplied with clean water.

Thieves ransack water systems

In an attempt to scare communities thieves in most parts of Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital are on a mission stealing water taps which they sell to vendors at black markets for as low as US$4 each.

In a recent development thieves went on a rampage in townships of Area 49, 25 and nearby areas where a number of water connecting equipment have been stolen.

“All this is happening because of high level of unemployment,” said Andrew Galeta, a resident of the capital.

He said most of these people stealing water pipes and other accessories are selling them cheap for survival.

“These people need money for the daily survival. Selling them at cheap price means they need money they dont carry even if they are caught and beaten up,” he said.

Malawi has one of the highest unemployment rate in the region with labour statistics indicating that over 35% of the youth are unemployed.

But in an attempt to minimise such unemployment government with funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB) is implementing a youth project aimed at increasing employment rate.

But with the population of the youth growing each day, it is unlikely that thieving of water pipes and other equipment will be a thing of the past.