Residents of Kanono Village, Traditional Authority Simon in Neno have long relied on Mtsimuke River for water.
Annie John, 67, had to wake up before 4am to draw the murky water for cooking, drinking, washing dishes, bathing and other home use.
Degradingly, the rural community shared its only water source with cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and wild animals—a common inequality faced by Malawi’s rural majority.
“We were competing with animals and we, women and girls, had to leave men fast asleep to get to the river before sunrise. The whole village flocked there,” she recalls.
Rhoda Samson, a mother of two, rues the long walks in search of water.
“We used to lose many hours to take care of our families, do business and participate in public life,” she states.
Children, especially girls, used to miss classes due to late coming or absenteeism fuelled by the tiring trips to the far off water source.
The dirty water put people in the hilly terrain at risk of dying from waterborne diseases, especially diarrhoea.
“The water was contaminated with animal waste. Cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid were common in our midst, with children getting sick one after the other,” says Samson, 29.
The subsistence farmer often spent her meagre income on hospital trips and her two children. However, the waterborne diseases have become sporadic as the community now drinks safe water.
In 2015, World Vision Malawi drilled a borehole to enhance access to safe and clean water, hygiene and sanitation in the constrained village. The water point is part of the Christian organisation’s water, sanitation and hygiene project under Matope Area Programme.
They have left the river to the animals as it flows into Shire River.
Old timers say with clean water right in the village, they no longer walk long distances.
“Now we have more time to care for our families and children go to school on time,” Samson brags.
The woman, who lives near the borehole, says the children are healthy.
“I have inner peace as my family is well with enhanced sanitation and hygiene. I also have time to engage in small-scale business,” she boasts.
Elizabeth James, vice-chairperson of the borehole committee, thanks World Vision Malawi for making their lives better.
“Our dream has come true. We are committed to protecting the borehole to ensure it serves us for a long time,” she says.
Safe for children
James says the village has a bright future because children now go to school on time and spend more time learning than bedridden.
The disease burden compelled World Vision to come to improve the health status of the hard-to-reach village.
World Vision development facilitator Ernest Chipata says the organisation wants children to live in a safe environment and achieve their full potential.
He says: “We are happy that the borehole is serving its purpose of ensuring children are safe.
“As households have easy access to clean and safe water, the community can do more with the time saved.
“So, it’s not just a borehole, but a source of good health and well-being.”