Almost 35 kilometres from Chikwawa District Hospital, Kandeu Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kasisi is a remote rural locality in the Lower Shire Valley strip.
With no electricity, villagers travel up to 8km to get to a maize mill, charge phones and get haircuts. They travel much longer to access health services at the hospital.
Ironically, the excluded village lies close to Kapichira Hydropower Generation Station on the Shire River where almost 98 percent of the country’s electricity is produced.
We feel forsaken,” says village head Kandeu. “We don’t understand why we continue to live in the dark when electricity is produced in our backyard. We have no public health facility. It’s like we are not part of Malawi. We lack basic amenities, shut down from the rest of the country.”
Communication and transportation remains a hassle. Some critical patients and pregnant women and babies die on the 30km journey to the district hospital, locals say.
For Kandeu, the worst hit are poor Malawians who cannot afford treatment at Kapichira Hydropower Station’s clinic.
But there is a glimmer of hope.
Not far away, a K210 million clinic is taking shape. The Hunger Project, with funding from the Dioraphte of the Netherlands, is constructing a community hall and health centre complete with a maternity wing and two staff houses.
The Majete 5 Epicentre under construction also comprises an early childhood development Centre, adult literacy centre, community food bank, village banking hall and electrification.
The Hunger Project envisages the facility improving the livelihoods of the rural Malawians to ensure they meet their potential, says head of programmes Mackenzie Nkalapa.
He unpacked the facility: The village savings will promote a culture of savings and offer the locals business capital through small loans for self-reliance while the food bank will help households achieve food security as each family will receive fertiliser in exchange with a small percentage of their harvests to be stored in readiness for a lean period.
In so doing, the change agents see Majete 5 Epicentre weaning the communities bordering Majete Wildlife Reserve from poaching, making charcoal and encroaching in the protected area, the only home of the big five in the country.
This is part of an eight-year project worth K876 million to improve livelihoods and bring basic social amenities closer to the community.
“The K210 million is for the construction of the structures while the remainder will be used for running the epicentre, training communities in financial and business management and offering target households a start-up capital in the next eight years,” explained Nkalapa.
Interestingly, the villagers take a leading role in choosing a viable community business and part of the proceeds will be used to run the epicentre, including paying utility bills and support staff, when the project phases out.
Chikwawa District Council chairperson Dyson Manjolo is happy that Kandeu and surrounding areas will finally have electricity, a childcare hall and a health centre.
To him, this is the beginning of an end to “unnecessary loss of lives”.
It is pathetic that pregnant women and children in the remote locality were dying of treatable conditions.
The councillor applauds traditional leaders and the villagers for contributing bricks and sand to the project.
“This signifies how eager the villagers are for the facilities project under construction.”
Dr Malangizo Mbewe, the Ministry of Health chief quality management officer in the South West Zone, was equally upbeat.
The healthcare facility will serve about 10 000 people from 18 villages.
Majete 5 is the 13th epicentre opened by the Hunger Project in the country. Ten of them are located in the Southern Region and two in the Centre.
The Hunger Project has engaged Donekis Construction Company to complete the works by December.
As the facility takes shape brick after brick, the villagers in Kandeu and the rest of T/A Kasisi are looking forward to the desired change they have been yearning for in their life.