Monday, October 18, 2010

When water means life

Story by: Sangwani Mwafulirwa

If water is life then he who gives water gives life. Since creation no form of life has existed without water, from human beings to the smallest of all living creatures, their existence depends on having access to water. Yet access to water will mean something very different for someone who gets water at the turn of a tap at home compared to someone like Chrisy Kilowe from Luwanja Village in Mulanje.

Chrisy has spent her 40-year life in Luwanja Village and the biggest challenge for her has been collecting water. Everyday she treks two kilometres to the neighbouring village where she draws water from an unprotected shallow well. A task which presents several dangers, dangers Chrisy is well aware of, having almost lost her unborn daughter of six months to diarrhoea last year.
However, Chrisy Kilowe is not alone. Her whole community faces many of the same challenges. The rainy season is particularly hard because all the mud and filth from uphill washes into the well. Households with no money to buy water treating chemicals have no option but to do their best with the dirty water, which poses severe health risks.

Thankfully, these problems will now be the tale of the past because an organisation, Water for All, has come to the rescue of the people by sinking a borehole in the village.

Water for All is an organisation founded by Atlas Copco employees in Sweden. Their aim is to provide clean and potable water to drought-prone areas of the world by drilling and digging water boreholes.

Water for All came to know of the problems in Luwanja Village through ADRA which has been implementing a three-year Women Empowerment Project (WEP) in the area.
According to WEP manager, Andiyesa Mhango the project was teaching people in the area about entrepreneurship, Rights Based Approaches and nutrition. Access to water has become another pressing issue for the project, because most women are being affected by limited access to clean and drinkable water.

“Water is a crucial component to women empowerment. Challenges of fetching water are robbing women of their vital time, time they could spend towards development of their communities and households.

“That is why we approached Water for All through ADRA Sweden. [Thanks to their support] we will be drilling in two more villages where they are facing the same problems,” says Mrs Mhango.
For women in particular, a borehole reduces the long journeys needed to collect water, journeys that start at 3 am every morning and that must be walked six times a day. It means that now women and their families do not get sick from diahorrea and other water borne diseases. A borehole gives communities more time and improved health to work on activities that develop their households and community.

The borehole for Luwanja village was handed over on Friday October 1, 2010 at a function which was attended by the Traditional Authority Chikumbu. She expressed her gratitude to Water for All and emphasised the need for communities to make bigger efforts towards improving the hygiene and sanitation around their homes, for example through the construction of pit latrines. These steps combined with clean water will make a greater impact on people’s health.

The Senior Environmental Health Officer for Mulanje Mr. Issac Jumma, stated that “only six out of 1o households in the village had sanitary facilities, which poses a huge threat to communities, especially through the coming rainy season.”

The crowd cheered in acceptance of this message, showing their commitment to improving the health and sanitation of their community. Already, as by requirement, the village has set up a water source committee to manage and maintain the borehole. The committee is responsible for collecting monthly contributions from the community to put towards the maintenance fund. A fence has also been constructed around the borehole to keep domestic animals away and people are being urged to guard the water source, to prevent theft of vital parts from the borehole.

In conclusion, the people’s joy and happiness could not be hidden. Their songs expressed it while their dancing demonstrated it. The event was a celebration of the gift of life provided to Village Luwanja, by Water for All, Sweden.

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