As a mother, Margaret Mayombo from Kaphiri Village, Traditional Authority Tsabango in Lilongwe had to make sure that her home had water for use in the home.
Sometimes she would fail to make it to the market where she sells fritters for survival as she had to walk for an hour in search of water.
Says Mayombo: “My business was falling. As a single mother of three, I had to make ends meet for my children. If I failed to sell fritters on that day, it meant no food for us.”
Her village, though located in the city of Lilongwe, still faced a lot of challenges when it came to access to potable water.
Sometimes the 36-year-old had to fetch water from untreated wells for use in the home, a development that placed her life and that of her children at risk of contracting waterborne diseases.
“As someone in the food business, cleanliness is one way of making it. Otherwise, people start judging a lot of things before buying from you but if they know you use clean water, a lot of people come for your food,” says Mayombo.
She does not forget the harsh treatment she suffered at the hands of people who owned wells in her area. She said when she wanted to draw water, some individuals would pour washing powder to the water source to deter others from fetching water from that well.
Mayombo adds: “Sometimes, we were only allowed to get a single 20-litre bucket which was not enough. But we had no choice as their wells were better than the stream or other untreated wells.”
Her long walks to find potable water came to an end when the Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), with funding from the World Bank, built an innovative water kiosk in the area.
Under the Lilongwe Water and Sanitation Project (LWSP), the e-madzi kiosk, which is digitalised, has helped reduce the cost of water for the residents of peri-urban areas in the capital city.
Now they are able to buy more water at a reasonable price and can go to the kiosk at their convenience.
Mayombo adds: “In the past it was really expensive for us to buy water. When we had no money, the only choice was the untreated wells and this affected our well-being.”
“Right now, we are at peace. We can go and do our businesses and fetch water at any time [that suits] us. Women in this area are happy with this development.”
In his remarks, group village head Kaphiri lauded LWB for considering his community under the project.
He says the people suffered for a long time in search for water, adding: “Children have missed school. Businesses have failed. Marriages have fallen. Men were actually furious at their wives when they took long to come back from the nearby boreholes.
“Though in the city, our community has a lot of people who rely on small-scale businesses and most of them have jobs that do not pay that much. So, we needed this development for them to cut costs on water.”
LWB board chairperson George Kajanga says the introduction of the digital kiosks has helped reduce Covid-19 transmission because people are not supposed to touch the taps and do not take a lot of time at the joint.
He said: “The e-madzi technology is one of our Covid-19 response plans to protect our customers and staff from contracting the virus. I must say, it has really shown positive returns.”
Apart from water supply, the project is also targeting to rehabilitate and expand the sewerage network as well as install 5 000 new sewer connections in Lilongwe city.
The project will also support the construction of 8 000 improved sanitation facilities, including toilets that will benefit poor and vulnerable households.
Currently, the funding for the project includes; a $75 million (about K59.89 billion) credit from World Bank/IDA, $25 million (about K19.96 billion) grant from World Bank/IDA and $2 million (about MK 1.6 billion) from the Government of Malawi.
Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources Nancy Tembo says the project will help some Lilongwe residents to have access to clean water and also improve the sanitation situation in the city.
She also stressed on the need for increased efforts on environmental conservation, saying it is one way Malawi and Lilongwe City in particular, can enjoy the feeling of having clean and safe water.
During his visit to Malawi, World Bank director of strategy and operations for Eastern and Southern Africa, Humberto Lopez, said the organisation was satisfied with the implementation of the project.
He said: “Water is life and we must hold hands in making sure everyone has clean, potable and safe water near them. In the times we are in, fighting the pandemic is only possible if households have clean water. Otherwise, all will be in vain.”
Reports indicate that 80 percent of the population in Malawi has access to an improved source of clean drinking water while about four million people still lack access to safe drinking water. n