Some changes can have a significant positive impact on people's lives. And this is particularly true in Malawi, a country in East Africa with few resources, ranked as the world's third poorest.
Natural disasters and unsafe water and sanitation have contributed to several cholera outbreaks in Malawi. According to the UNICEF and WHO Joint Monitoring Program, the country suffers from high rates of childhood diarrhea, a leading cause of death among children under five. In addition to that, many Malawians lack access to both treated drinking water and handwashing facilities — even for the population with access to safe water, when a piece of machinery or equipment malfunctions, it can mean a severe problem. This is what happened in the Mzimba district in the Northern region of Malawi. In February 2020, an on-site water pump broke at the Engucwini Health Centre, a medical center serving around 300 people a day. Patients, medical staff, and the surrounding community were left without access to safe water.
"Their only solution was a communal borehole, approximately 1.2 miles away, that took health workers away from assisting patients. In addition to that, incoming patients and visitors had no place to wash their hands, and this increased the spread of COVID-19 in the community," reported Water Mission, one of AWF's most valued partners and a leading implementer of sustainable safe water and sanitation engineered solutions around the world.
To bring this community access to safe water again and help fight the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases, AWF raised the necessary funds to implement a new, better, and safer water system at the Engucwini Health Centre.
Now working at full steam, the new system meets the daily water needs of 1,000 people, three times the per diem average of visitors to the health center. The project also included a water distribution tap installed just outside the health center premises for community access.
"The project has short, medium, and long-term impact."
The system was designed and implemented by Water Mission, which also recruited a Safe Water Committee among health center staff to oversee the project, the system's maintenance and operation, and conduct COVID-19 prevention training sessions.
"When Water Mission told us about this situation, we didn't hesitate to help because the solution they implemented is a structural one that will have short, medium and long-term impact. The new system solves the problem of access to safe water for about 1000 people daily. It enables a Health Centre to go on providing healthcare, helping with COVID-19 prevention, giving training and information — a powerful weapon for any community".
"Safe Water is a universal right, whether you live in Malawi, in the United States, or any other country in the world. Water is a basic human right, and AWF will always fight to make this right a reality for everyone everywhere."
Here are some testimonies from Ulemu Sibande, resident of Engucwini, and Dr. Bester Zimba, the clinician in charge at the Center, on how access to safe water changed this community's life. Click here to watch.
Update from January 2022 - the current stage and next steps of the project, along with quotes by Annie Chiumia and Lea Botha, two community members who wanted to share how this project has impacted their and their children's lives. Click here to read.