THE DELIVER LIFE II PROJECT'S JOURNEY TO CLEAN WATER AND COMMUNITY TRANSFORMATION
By Ulemu Mbengwani
Access to clean and safe water remains a formidable challenge in Malawi. In some areas, the very act of securing water, whether it meets safety standards or not, presents an unimaginably daunting and labor-intensive undertaking. This has been the reality for the residents of Khwivale village in the Machinga district, where the struggle for water access is so profound that they must wake up at 3 am daily and travel approximately 3 kilometers to ensure they are among the first to collect water from a borehole in a neighboring village.
Thanks to the Deliver Life II project, the village's challenges are on the brink of becoming history. The community has received support in the form of a borehole, expected to benefit over 100 households. This project is being spearheaded by WaterAid Malawi in conjunction with AMREF, and the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) with financial support from the Scottish Government. It is working towards improving Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Health Care Centers (HCFs), Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDCs), and communities in Zomba and Machinga districts.
Chikondi Selevaziyo, a resident of the village, shared the challenges his family faces in securing water. "Our wives embark on a challenging journey to Nangwale Village to obtain water for our households, covering a substantial distance. Despite the difficulty, they must make this trek to ensure we have an adequate water supply for our daily needs.”
"The process of obtaining water is further complicated by the long queues they encounter. Consequently, they return home quite late, turning the task into a demanding and time-consuming endeavor. This challenge is particularly daunting during the farming season when we must decide how to allocate time between tending to crops and meeting our water requirements," added Selevaziyo.
According to Rodrick Mwakula, the Project Officer for AMREF, the project targets women, adolescent girls and under-five children. Collaborating with government officials, they focus on areas identified as being in dire need of water. Mwakula emphasized that the provision of clean and safe water is crucial for ensuring personal and home hygiene, playing a significant role in preventing diarrhea and other waterborne diseases.
Master Joseph, another resident from Nkhwivale, concurred with Mwakula. "The lack of access to clean water impacts our ability to maintain good hygiene, particularly concerning the recommended five handwashing moments. For example, we often resort to using leftover bathwater to wash our hands after using the toilet, which is not always feasible and not the best practice," he highlighted.
The absence of access to clean and safe water not only disrupts daily household activities but also directly hampers education, which is equally crucial. According to Esther Buleya, to ensure school-going children conveniently prepare for their studies, parents adopted the practice of fetching water a day in advance. Older students who fetch water independently also have to go a day before, usually in the afternoon after school. This is particularly tough on them as they are already fatigued from their school activities before embarking on the long water-fetching journey.
So far, the project has supported seven health care facilities with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities as well as providing 29 boreholes which are supporting about 200 villages in Machinga. In Zomba, the project has supported nine Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDCs) with boreholes and child friendly sanitation facilities.
However, Rodrick Mwakula urged for increased support to address water issues in other communities, such as Khwivale. "I appeal to WaterAid and the Scottish Government to contemplate extending this project, considering substantial gaps persist in various regions despite the significant progress achieved thus far," Mwakula stressed.
He emphasized the undeniable impact of this project and expressed hope that its success would serve as inspiration for more initiatives, bringing clean water and enhanced livelihoods to additional communities in need.
The Deliver Life II initiative goes beyond merely delivering clean and safe water as it is serving as a catalyst for transformative change. By alleviating women from the arduous task of fetching water over long distances, the project enables them to participate in more productive endeavors, such as farming, and actively practicing for hygiene practices.
This newfound accessibility not only guarantees improved hygiene standards but also facilitates easier access to education for children. By eliminating the obstacles associated with fetching water, the project empowers the entire community, especially women, thereby contributing to sustainable development and fostering a brighter future for communities. It underscores the indispensable role of clean water in enhancing the overall well-being of the community.