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Despair at Nsombi Island in Zomba

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Thousands of people at Nsombi Island on Lake Chilwa in Zomba are living a miserable life as they are deprived of critical social services.

Malawi News travelled to the island, a one and half hour engine boat ride from Kachulu dock, and found people condemned to a life without secondary schools, health facilities and potable water.

Located on the border with Mozambique, the Island has a population of over 3000 people and fishing is their way of life.

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Group Village Headman Chisoni said it was unfortunate that the population at the island was neglected by government and most of the non-governmental organisations.

He said education at the island is a far-fetched dream, as pupils had no access to secondary education after finishing primary school.

“We have no secondary school, when pupils finish their primary education; it becomes difficult to pursue their studies. The nearest secondary school is over 50 kilometers away, out of which almost 40 kilometers is covered on the water.

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“But at times when we find some students that are interested to pursue their education, we ask people here to contribute money and rent a house for them near St Michaels Community Day Secondary School in Mpyupyu,” he said.

He, however, said sometimes financial challenges and distance force the students to drop out of school.

On lack of potable water, GVH Chisoni said people rely on unprotected sources because the area does not have piped water or boreholes.

“We use water from the lake. People bath, relieve themselves in the water and we also drink the same water. We really need help,” he said.

On health, the chief said people struggle to get medication as there is no health facility at the Island.

“We at times have mobile clinics conducted by the District Health Office, but once in a month. At times due to financial constraints they take months before coming again.

“Most of the people are at risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases including HIV/Aids, because of the lifestyle here, but the problem is where to get the services,” he said.

However, Jhpiego is implementing a project at the Island on Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC).

“This is a hard to reach area, therefore, we chose this area to be one of the beneficiaries of the project. The response from the community was overwhelming. There was a day when we had a maximum of 65 people,” said the Project team leader in Zomba Whyson Mkandawire.

He, however, said the only challenge they faced during the implementation was lack of a health facilities.

“After helping the people, we were supposed to be referring them to a health facility, but there is none here. But all in all we are satisfied with the response,” he said.

A beneficiary of the project, Jones Kasawala, said he could not overemphasize the importance of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision.

“At first, Initiation counsellors were responsible for circumcision, but safety was a problem. Therefore, I urge my fellow men who are not circumcised to undergo the procedure. It is not painful, and the healing process does not take long,” he said.

Initiation counsellor, Taulo Mingwa, admitted that safety was a problem as they were using one razor blade to circumcise two or three people.

“We are no longer doing that because of the coming in of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision,” he said.

A woman, whose husband was circumcised, Chrissy Assani, said, “We were taught the importance of VMMC, and I urged my husband to go for it. I advise women to do the same with their husbands.

However, on lack of critical social services, District Commissioner, Bennet Nkasala, said the district does not have any plans soon to assist Malawians that are living on the Island.

“We have already submitted our budget for 2015/2016 financial year, and Nsombi Island is not in our plans.

“But we will look at the number of people at the Island, and see if we need to construct a secondary school. On health, we have mobile clinics conducted by the District Health Office,” he said.

The DC was optimistic that some development partners would help the people.

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