Thames Water transforming lives in Malawi

15 August 2016
Edited Thames Water employees dancing with the community in Malawi. WaterAid/Malumbo Simwaka

Over the next four years, Thames Water is taking on an incredible challenge. Jess Sutton, Water Industry Partnership Manager at WaterAid, explains. 

As part of a new project, Thames Loves Malawi, they’re aiming to raise £2 million to improve access to clean water and sanitation in two towns in Malawi: Kasungu and Mponela.

The ambitious goal follows on from the success of the Thames4Bangladesh project, which raised a phenomenal £2.14 million for WaterAid between 2011 and 2015, transforming thousands of lives in some of Bangladesh’s poorest and most marginalised communities.

'We have nowhere to go'

Kasungu and Mponela are both rapidly growing towns, where the need for services has outpaced the existing infrastructure.

But through the Thames Loves Malawi project, we hope to change things – reaching 40,000 people with improved sanitation, 6,000 with access to clean water and 23,000 with hygiene education messages.

To mark the launch of the new partnership, seven Thames Water staff visited Malawi to see the difference their support will make.

In Bwemba village, on the outskirts of Kasungu, the community are currently accessing water from an unprotected well more than 10 metres deep. Residents have to use a rope tied to a container to collect dirty water.

From Left: Teleza Phiri and Chifuniro Yambani are happy to have clean water from the new kiosk. WaterAid/Malumbo Simwaka
Chifuniro (right) and Teleza collect clean water from a new kiosk.

“Because the water is not protected, we often suffer from diarrhoeal diseases,” says resident Chifuniro. “We often find dead frogs and even snakes in the water, but we have nowhere else to go. We have no alternative.”

  • But thanks to the new Thames Loves Malawi partnership, work is already underway to bring safe water to Bwemba for the first time – and local residents are only too happy to get involved.
  • Some even took on a month of 4am starts, so they could help dig a 3.5km trench for the pipes that will connect a new communal water kiosk to the water network.
  • “The experience that is probably going to stay with me the most is just how proactive the people are here,” says Emily Askins-Healy, Desalination Plant Operator at Thames Water. “They are not just asking for help, they want to do as much as they can for themselves.”

Sharing skills and knowledge

The Thames Loves Malawi partnership will also draw on the experience of Thames Water employees, so they can help Malawian water companies develop their skills and knowledge and improve their services.

Musa the mason WaterAid/Malumbo Simwaka
Musa, Scheme Manager at the Central Region Board in Malawi.

While in Malawi the group met Musa Chimtsimbo, Scheme Manager of the Central Region Water Board, who described many of the challenges he faces delivering water to customers – including water security, leakages and regular power outages.

“Much of my time in Malawi was spent meeting water professionals,” says Paresh Kavia, Portfolio Delivery Lead – Non-Infrastructure Programme at Thames Water. “As well as understanding the areas in which they need help, including technical and peer-to-peer support, we also shared ideas for innovation.”

Read more about our work with the water industry >