Malawi scores highly in
water, poorly in hygiene
alawi is above its neighbours when it comes to citizen’s accessibility to water, but scores poorly in hygiene and sanitation, a new report has shown.
An economist has since blamed the poor ranking on hygiene and sanitation on misuse of resources allocated to these sectors.
In a report which the Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) in collaboration with Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources lecturer Henry Kankwamba issued recently, Malawi’s water accessibility rate is at 68 percent; Zimbabwe ranks second at 65 percent, while third placed Zambia is at 60 percent, Tanzania is at 57 percent and Mozambique anchors the table at 55 percent.
In an interview on Wednesday, Kankwamba said Malawi should not be celebrating that her people have better access to water as much of the country’s water is not potable.
Csat sanctioned the assessment in response to growing complaints of poor water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) services channelled through its free toll line 3056.
The report titled Financial Investment in the Water Sector, puts Zimbabwe on first at 37 percent followed by Mozambique (29 percent), Malawi and Zambia are tied on third with 28 percent while Tanzania, at four percent, ranks the lowest.
In the sanitation area, Malawi with nine percent is the worst, Zambia is second worst at 14 percent, Zimbabwe is at 25 percent while Tanzania, at 48 percent, is the best.
Kankwamba, an expert in agricultural and applied economics, observed that while many Malawians have access to water, much of it is not safe for consumption as it is contaminated with sewer and other toxic chemicals that result in diseases such as diarrhoea and cancer.
He said: “This is where we are getting the poor sanitation ranking in the region.”
The lecturer warned that if the country does not restructure its water infrastructure, it will continue to spend more on treatment while children are stunted due to poor health.
He said: “We need to seriously look at improving the infrastructure. We have cases in our cities where residents experience dry taps for over three days and nobody cares.
“Around a million people suffer from waterborne illnesses annually and that is a lot of money when you consider the price of antibiotics used to treat them. This is why we need to focus on prevention.”
Kankwamba says poor sanitation has also been worsened by poor waste management.
The report states that the major Wash victims are children.
Reads the report in part: “Ninety percent of people dying from diarrhoeal diseases are under five years old…48 to 53 percent of children under the age of five are stunted because of poor water.”
Malawi’s Wash is among sectors that are well-funded. According to the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Board of Malawi, NGOs in the Wash sector reported an annual income and expenditure of K118 billion and K138 billion respectively in 2020.
“Out of those NGOs, 20 percent reported the amount invested in the sector which was K2.2 billion,” said the board’s acting director of economics and monitoring services Patrick Mwale in an interview.
But Kankwamba said despite substantial Wash funding, little was being invested in promoting water and sanitation services in communities.
He said: “A good amount is spent on meetings and administrative things. Sometimes you see 20 vehicles travelling to some community to open a borehole. That is a waste. If we are to improve, we must ensure that much of those funds trickle down to infrastructure development.”
On his part, Csat executive director Willy Kambwandira said the toll-free line, which they sanctioned, has helped to expose Wash challenges in communities.
He said: “A majority of the complaints are bordering on lack of access to clean and potable water, substandard water infrastructure projects, poor quality water and lack of coordination among players in the water sector.
“Others are that NGOs and some members of Parliament are drilling boreholes without following guidelines and without consulting relevant authorities. Such conduct puts lives of consumers at risk.”
Kambwandira added that through the study, they established that central government was monopolising funding in the water sector.
Said the executive director: “We have noted that government and NGOs are injecting a lot of resources into the water sector, but the resources are not trickling down to local communities.
“In addition, in terms of allocation, the central government has not devolved its water allocation. It continues to monopolise the water allocation at the expense of local councils, where the complaints are coming from.”
Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources deputy director of forestry and planning Ben Wengawenga argued that government funding towards the water sector trickles down to the local government.
“Even though the funds reflect at central level, much of it go towards projects by the water boards,” he said.
Wengawenga admitted that ensuring that the whole country has access to potable water is a tough mission that needs rigorous funding.
He said: “To defeat the Covid-19 pandemic and cholera during the rainy season, we need clean water. We would like to get as much funding as possible so we can improve provision of safe water in the country.
“Our appeal is that we should join hands and make resources available so the communities can have access to clean water.”
To tackle poor water quality challenges in both urban and rural areas, water and sanitation specialist Elias Chimlambe called for the reforms in the sector.
He explained: “We need reforms at water boards. We need capacity [human resources, equipment, technical issues] review in all these water boards.
“We need to review the functions and roles of all institutions that support water quality control such as the central laboratory, Malawi Bureau of Standards and the Department of Water Supply and Sanitation Services.”
A 2019 study by the Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation at Mzuzu University revealed high toxic content in Mzuzu City groundwater due to lapses in waste management.
It recommended the need to prevent further release of toxins into water sources from disposal sites.
Last month, the National Statistical Office launched the fourth Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, which also found challenges in access to clean water, with 60 percent of the country’s water sources being contaminated and 93 percent of the country’s households drinking contaminated water.
The World Health Organisation suggests that improving access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene would save 20 000 lives per year and eliminate 25 million episodes of illness.
Sustainable Development Goals targets 6.1 and 6.2 aims for universal and equitable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2030. n
govt snubs ACB recommendations on AIP
Government has snubbed key recommendations aimed at reducing corruption and fertiliser supply disruptions in the implementation of the 2021/22 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), it has emerged.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu on Thursday acknowledged that government failed to implement some of the recommendations, but said it was due to technical challenges, including failure by private contractors to supply fertilisers.
The recommendations, made in the Report on the Monitoring of the 2020/21 Affordable Inputs Programme, included branding fertiliser bags, opening more selling points and removing incompetent suppliers.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) published the recommendations after monitoring last year’s AIP management.
The aim was to tackle corrupt behaviours among stakeholders in the AIP, increase levels of awareness on corruption, investigate and prosecute corruption related cases, the ACB explained.
The report made 13 recommendations to the ministry which implements the AIP, a K141.9 billion programme that subsidises fertilisers and maize seeds for over 3.7 million subsistent farmers to achieve food security at both household and national levels.
In the report, the bureau suggested that the ministry, in collaboration with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) and ACB, should vet suppliers to ensure that only those with capacity are awarded contracts.
A Nation on Sunday assessment has established that most of the ACB proposals were not implemented or were poorly done, creating room for the same challenges they were trying to avert.
The report recommended that “the ministry should ensure that bags for AIP inputs are labelled because this is very crucial in order to differentiate [AIP] fertiliser with commercial fertiliser to avoid cases where the AIP fertiliser is being sold to vendors on pretext that it is for commercial selling.
“The ministry should consider opening many selling points so that people should not travel long distances to buy the AIP inputs, [government] should consider engaging suppliers in good time to avoid delays in supplying the inputs.”
The other key proposal was that the “ministry, in collaboration with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets [PPDA] Authority and ACB, should vet suppliers, ensuring that all suppliers who do not have capacity are not awarded contracts”.
Nation on Sunday assessment found that fertiliser bags were not labelled and that despite most parts of the country receiving the rains, some farmers were yet to access the inputs.
In his AIP update on December 27 2021, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said only 38.8 percent of farmers had accessed all the required fertilisers.
“To date farmers have accessed 143 992 metric tonnes [2 879 840 bags], representing 38.8 percent against the target of 371 411 metric tonnes [7 428 210 bags]. This translates into 1 439 920 farming households who have accessed two bags of fertiliser,” he told a press conference in Lilongwe.
The minister also thinly admitted that some of the suppliers were struggling to supply the commodities.
“[One of the challenges is] absence of some fertiliser suppliers on the market. Admarc and SFFRFM [Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi] remain the only reliable suppliers and this has led to long queues in some shops,” he pointed out.
In a written response, Lungu admitted that the ministry failed to meet some of the recommendations because of technical challenges.
He said: “ACB recommended that AIP fertiliser bags be labelled AIP but this was not considered [because] not all fertilisers which are sold on the market belong to government.
“The ministry sub-contracts the contracts to suppliers who source fertilisers from different areas. Labelling the bags as AIP would limit the suppliers as they would not sell such fertilisers on commercial market beyond the AIP delivery period.
“This can only be implemented in an occasion where government buys all the fertilisers on its own but again this would require extra funds and with the already suffocated AIP budget, implementation of this would still face a hiccup.”
On opening more selling points, Lungu said government had planned to double last year’s number but failure by some private contractors to supply the fertilisers had affected their plans.
He said: “In this year’s programme, government contracted 164 companies to supply 66 percent of the total tonnage of fertilisers with Admarc and SFFRFM allocated the remaining 34 percent.
“We allocated almost twice the total selling points we had last year where these 164 suppliers were supposed to operate but with the challenges these SMEs have been facing ranging from finances to procurement of fertilisers, our plan faced a challenge.”
On the need to vet suppliers, he argued that the ministry believes that it recruited the right suppliers despite most of them failing to fulfil their contractual obligations.
Lungu said: “Since this follows due diligence in different institutions like PPDA, the Reserve Bank of Malawi, Malawi Revenue Authority, Government Contracting Unit, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and other stakeholders, the ministry believes that every supplier who was contracted passed the set conditions.
“The ministry believes that some external factors like global fertiliser price increases, fertiliser cartels in Malawi as well as financial lending institutions have in one way or the other affected smooth delivery of this AIP.”
However, Farmers Union of Malawi chief executive officer Jacob Nyirongo said government’s conditions on AIP implementation contributed to its failure to meet the ACB recommendations.
“On issue of struggles to open more selling points, government is offering lower prices than the suppliers expected. Much of the private sector that are participating also want to reduce on costs. For them to reach every selling spot, it reduces their costs,” he said.
Nyirongo said it was farmers who are paying the price as they travel long distances to access the fertiliser and “wait for days to buy as some suppliers are taking three weeks to stock the selling points”.
“The result is that the farmers will not be able to apply the fertiliser on time which may lead to reduced yields,” he said.
Nyirongo said government can improve the programme through proper planning and identification of suppliers.
“Labelling of AIP inputs, for example, is very important as it makes them protected commodities. But that cannot be done when suppliers are not identified in good time,” he said.
AIP is a Tonse Alliance initiative which succeeded the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme implemented by the Democratic Progressive Party.
In the 2021/22 Budget, set to expire in March 2022, government allocated K142 billion towards the programme to benefit 3.7 million farming households. The AIP allocation represents half of the agriculture sector budget of K284 billion, according to data in budget documents.
Critics of the subsidy programme, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, argue that it is draining government resources as it is purely for consumption.
In a separate interview, agriculture policy expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said the developments surrounding this year’s AIP point to minimal success of the programme. n
ACB examines Sattar’s
judges ‘capture’ claims
he Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is assessing if there is merit in investigating allegations that businessman Zuneth Sattar is paying school fees for some judges’ children.
ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala said this on Thursday after Forum for National Development (FND) asked the bureau to probe the claims which social media influencer Onjezani Kenani posted on his Facebook page last month.
“Sattar pays school fees for children of two judges, one at the High Court and another at the Supreme Court of Appeal. We know these judges. If anyone of them touches the Sattar case, we will raise hell until they recuse themselves,” wrote the former Malawi Writers Union president.
In a letter filed to the Chief Justice and ACB dated December 20 2021, FND says the “judges capture” allegations were serious and worth an investigation.
Reads the letter in part: “The allegation undermines the impartiality and integrity of the Judiciary in Malawi. It is only prudent that this matter must be cleared. Mr. Stanley Onjezani Kenani is one of the influential persons in Malawi in as far as opinion shaping is concerned and an allegation coming from such an individual cannot just be dismissed.
“It is our considered view that Mr. Kenani must be summoned to substantiate the claims and make a public disclosure of the justices that have been compromised.”
In an interview on Thursday, Ndala acknowledged receiving the FND letter and said the claims will be assessed before any action is taken.
She said: “The bureau received this letter as a copy recipient. The bureau will review it as it does with all complaints. This is done to see if there is merit to warrant action by the bureau.”
When contacted, High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Gladys Gondwe asked for more time and promised to call back but did not. She could also not pick up our later calls.
Sattar is under investigation by ACB in collaboration with Britain’s National Crime Agency over the award of multi-million-dollar public contracts to his firms.
On November 1 2021, the ACB issued a notice to Malawi Defence Forces and Malawi Police Service restricting them from dealing with contracts awarded to some firms, including Xelite Stripes Limited, Xavier and Mallachite FZE linked to the claimants.
Under a fortnight ago, Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa and Sattar’s business partner Ashok Nair were arrested in connection with alleged corrupt land deals.
Msukwa, who is also member of Parliament for Chitipa East (Malawi Congress Party), is suspected to have committed three counts of corrupt use of official power in relation to allocation of plots to Sattar, according to the particulars of his arrest warrant. n
Police urged to desist from
corruption, partisan politics
This entry has been inspired by one Nick Zafania (please refer to a letter to the editor ‘Churches favour tithers’). Indeed as per observation, experience and other Christians’ testimonies, many churches— knowingly or unknowingly—tend to favour those with money in general without a bias towards tithing. Let me share a personal experience. Sometime back, I decided to attend a certain Pentecostal church. As one of the few car owners and avid tithers, I was one of those given preferential treatment in terms of church positions and decision making. I remember being given anointing water and other anointing regalia for use to attain God’s favour. I was handpicked to head the finance department (something far from my calling). In the pastor’s own words; “Those who did not give did not deserve them until they started giving.”
Fast forward to yet another church, I was given leeway to the pastor based on my giving. While others were perpetually ignored or asked to pay for deliverance, mine came easy and I became friends with the founder. Of course, those who felt sidelined eventually left after complaining. I followed suit later.
Indeed, pastors rush to the aid of givers. When the so-called affluent call to be prayed for in case of illnesses or trouble, a battalion of pastors, deacons and their assistants rush to their side to offer prayers and encouragement because a ‘faithful’ one is in need. When a less advantaged member of the flock calls, it’s usually endless excuses and they are usually told to wait until Sunday or for the next available pastor. Sometimes they are simply told: “Everything will be fine. All is well.” Many are uncompelled to help non-givers or the poor because prayers have become a business or merchandise. Because without spelling it out, many pastors want favours, especially monetary to pray for someone.
These institutions will literally ignore an avid church member, one who can ably service a position, in preference for the rich. It is the myopia that the rich are intelligent or organised than the trekker who many believe will actually embezzle church funds.
Stop this discrimination you so-called people of God. When one runs to you, it means they are seeking the face of God. Status should not matter and it should please God, master of all to reach out to everyone. Giving or tithing is an act of obedience to God’s word and it should not be up to any of us to judge those that are not doing so. Let God be the judge. Our duty is to help and also usher as many as we can into His kingdom. God is no respecter of man. Money should not earn one some respect, church position or salvation. Let every gift be acknowledged because even the poor are an anointed part of the body of Christ.