Mwakhiwa Village is tucked deep in the border strip of Muloza, almost 60 kilometres (km) from Mulanje Boma at the foot of Mount Mulanje.
The rural community is situated almost 20km south-east of the massive mountain surrounded by sprawling tea fields. From the massif descends Muloza River which flows all year round, snaking past 59 villages as it races to Ruo River.
For years, villagers have been marvelling at the waters running downhill.
Many are times government and its partners constructed a weir on the mountain to dam the water for domestic use, but it kept being washed away.
The damaged intake meant no clean water for almost 60 villages along Muloza.
Women usually walked long distances to draw clean water.
“Every time the Muloza Water Intake got damaged, we suffered a lot. I used to walk for almost an hour to the nearest stream to draw water. Unfortunately, many streams have dirty water,” recalls Agness Scot, 39.
Her community in Mwakhiwa spent their whole life longing for reliable access to safe water closer to their homes.
Since 1980, government has made several attempts to provide tap water to the remote population, but floods ceaselessly washed away the weir.
A report by World Vision Malawi indicates that Muloza Water Intake in Traditional Authority (TA) Njema has suffered natural disasters since its inception-with Canadian International Development Agency (Cida) and African Development Bank financing its reconstruction in 2000 and 2010, respectively.
“Just when we thought clean water was finally here, nature had another surprise. In 2015/2016 season, devastating floods ripped the water scheme yet again,” recounts Scot.
This was the fifth time the intake was shattered, causing a serious shortage of safe water.
Out of the 59 villages that depend on the project, only two had access to clean water.
That is why the community requested World Vision and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to rebuild the water system to alleviate the plight of women and children.
Chrissie Phamba is all smiles.
This project has saved her children from going to school late, says the resident of Mwakhiwa.
“My two daughters used to report late for classes as they spent hours escorting me in search of water to bathe,” she explains.
Equally relieved is Thundu Primary School head teacher Godfrey Wokomaatani Makoma.
“Now, most pupils are punctual,” he says.
World Vision strives to attain life in its fullness for all children, according to World Vision national director Hazel Nyathi.
“To live up to this vision, the organisation, through this water project, is supplying water to a population of 30 203 in the villages along Muloza River,” she says.
Nearly 3 807 of the reached population are children. The water system covers three primary schools comprising 6 007 pupils as well as Muloza Health Centre.
“Due to lack of safe drinking water, many children were suffering from cholera and diarrhoea. Malnutrition was also rampant,” narrates Phamba.
At times, especially during rainy season, children were drowning when sent to fetch water from the murky rivers.
“We thank World Vision for saving our children from avoidable deaths,” says Mulanje Limbuli Constituency legislator Daud Chida.
The availability of safe water will also help keep children in school.
The head teacher says most children were missing classes due to waterborne diseases and weariness.
He is happy that World Vision has taught the community, including pupils, to always wash their hands before taking meals and after visiting toilets.
“Previously, sanitation was poor and children were constantly haunted by waterborne diseases,” he says.
Now Thundu Primary School has its own tap.
Rhoda Moses, 12, is thrilled with the ease the tap offers.
“Not long ago, we used to waste time hoping from one home to another, begging for drinking water. Now we no longer trouble them. We just run to the tap nearby and quickly return to class,” says the Standard Five pupil.
In this way, the reconstruction of Muloza Water Intake will serve the community in many ways.
As for women, drawing safe water near their homes means a big saving on time which they use to socialise, do business and participate in community development activities.
The water project has saved them from the tedious sojourns in search of water. “At last, we can afford a life without worrying about water problems,” says Scot. nA