A pitemu Safa, 30, grew up believing that her village was condemned to drinking from unprotected wells and rivers.
“I thought piped water was a reserved privilege for city and town residents,” said Safa, who comes from Njete Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mthiramanja in Mulanje.
For decades, the village had failed to connect itself to the piped water supply from Chonde Trading Centre—about one and a half kilometres from the village and about three kilometres from Luchenza Municipal Council (LMC) headquarters.
The now phasing out United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target on water sought governments’ commitment to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
Back home, the National Water Development Programme II, through its Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project, sought to improve water supply and sanitation services to low-income communities in the country.
A volunteer with the United States (US) Peace Corp Response Volunteers (PCRV), Jack Durret, once wondered why access to potable water and sanitation facilities remained a mere dream among people living close to urban or semi-urban areas such as Luchenza and Chonde Market years after the project was launched in 2009.
But village head Njete said application fees the Southern Region Water Board (SRWB) charges are ‘too huge’, hence frustrating government’s efforts to provide deserving Malawians with piped water.
He emphasised that it is the wish of everyone to be connect to piped water to improve sanitary and hygiene practices in their household.
“But this may only possible where the cost is affordable. Currently, the application fees and water tariffs cannot accommodate the poor and low-income earners,” he said.
Group village head (GVH) Chonde of Mthiramanja in Mulanje revealed that life in the rural areas is a constant struggle as safe water is scarce.
Chonde also said majority of water bodies in the area are polluted.
“People have been sharing contaminated water with animals and this has exposed them to risks of water, sanitation and hygiene [Wash]-related diseases,” she said.
But the traditional leader said the situation has started to improve, thanks to water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) project being implemented by PCRV.
For the past three years, the volunteers have been installing water kiosks to improve sanitation and hygiene among communities in sub-T/A Nanseta and T/A Mthiramanja in Mulanje and Thyolo districts respectively.
LMC monitoring and evaluation officer, John Maneya, said the project seeks to improve living standards of the people through provision of piped water to low-income earners that live in the surrounding areas.
Maneya said under the LMC/PCRV partnership, a number of public water kiosks have been installed at Chonde Market, Njete Village and several other villages in sub-T/A Nanseta and T/A Mthiramanja.
While the kiosks have brought joy to some residents, others are unhappy with tariffs being charged by the Water Users Association (WUA).
Lizzie Kazembe of Chonde Village said WUA is currently demanding a monthly contribution of K700 from each household.
This money, according to Chonde Market WUA chairperson, Sheikh Osman Mkoko, caters for the maintenance of the kiosk.