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Desperate face of poverty in Ntchisi

People in seven villages under Group Village Headman Gedelesi in Ntchisi have not known a source of potable water for as long as they have lived, Malawi News has learnt.

Throughout the years, they have depended on Kamonasi swamp where animals also drink.

Most houses in the villages are grass-thatched. In all the seven villages which have a total population of over 3000 people, only three houses are roofed with iron sheets, according to Group Village Headman Gedelesi.

For Gedelesi Village, only one house is roofed with iron sheets. Most of the houses are made from mud and not bricks.

The level of poverty is such that a radio is a luxury among many households. Three primary school girls namely Hanet Jenihausi, 14, Jenala Zigwetsa, 15, and Livinesi James, 15, from Gedelesi Village admitted in separate interviews that their homes have not had radios as long as they can remember.

“We do not follow what is happening in our country,” said Zigwetsa.

Under Group Village Headman M’bobo, eight villages use one borehole which was sunk in 1987. When it breaks down, people have to walk over a long distance to Bua River to draw water where animals also drink.

Even when the borehole is functional, the water it produces is salty and not usable for chores such as cooking beans.

Village Headman Mb’obo said the 81 households in his village use one borehole.

“There are usually fights at the borehole,” he said.

Mb’obo added that the area does not have a maize mill, a health centre and schools are far between such that it takes not less than one hour for children to get to the nearest primary school.

“Not many people here have shoes. Most of them walk barefoot. Even me, I have only one pair. People hardly eat in the morning.

“Our concern is the children going to school. And on their way back, they usually find okra which we preserve during harvest time and keep for consumption for this time [when maize for nsima is scarce],” said M’bobo.

Rodrick Gabriel, 45, a father of three, said he wakes up every morning thinking of where to go to do piece work for the survival of his family.

“I have to feed my children. The little maize I harvested got finished long time ago. I feel bad to see my children go to school on empty stomach and sometimes get no food on their way back,” said Gabriel.

He described the situation in his house as follows: “Two children use one blanket. The other, younger child uses the blanket which me and my wife use. We have two plastic basins, plastic plates and no pail. I have a small stool as my chair in the house. The rest of the family sits on the mud floor.”

The family does not have domestic animals. They have no bicycle. The wife and children have no shoes. The man has one pair.

At the time of the interview, the last born child felt hungry and his mother gave him prepared okra [therere] without nsima.

Group Village Headman Sankhani minced no words regarding poverty in Ntchisi.

“Since Malawi was born, there has been no borehole here or any good source of water. There is no development in this area. No water, children are stunted, no health centre, no markets, no food. What is our sin to deserve all this?” he wondered.

Ward Councillor for Chimbwadzi Phillip Tsogolani said Ntchisi is in pathetic state in terms of social services.

He said the district council has been writing proposals for support for water and other social services for the area but to no avail.

“Ntchisi has problems. Population is high. In books it may show that there are boreholes but nothing on the ground. The good thing is that God protects us from getting sick because we drink together with animals,” he said.

According to Ntchisi District Nutrition Coordinating Committee, the district has a population of 295 592 people with 47 percent stunting rate.

It has one district hospital and 11 health centres and six extension planning areas. There are 729 gazetted villages.

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa admitted that there are high levels of poverty in Malawi –not only in Ntchisi.

He said the government is aware of the high levels of poverty in rural areas.

“That is why the 2015/16 national budget committed K500 billion to the councils for development and social amenities. We know the funds are not enough but at least that is a starting point,” said Nakhumwa on Thursday.

He also said government’s efforts to fund development and social services through councils are sometimes thwarted by the lack of right personnel in the district councils.

“Such interventions face challenges. Some officers steal the funds and secondly the quality of personnel in most councils leaves a lot to be desired because most of them are in acting positions because of the freeze on recruitment. You find district aids coordinator working as acting director of planning and development,” he said.

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 160th out of 182 countries on the Human Development Index.

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