Stunted growth is often associated with children in Malawi, with the Global Nutrition Report indicating that up to 39 percent of children under-five in Malawi are affected by the problem. But, as JARSON MALOWA writes, non-living things have joined the stunted growth list, most notably the 62-kilometre (km) Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga Road.
Stunted growth is supposed to be a characteristic of living things, notably people, and, in Malawi, the Global Nutrition Report indicates that 39.0 percent of under-five children have been impacted by the condition of poor nutrition.
Seven years ago, Department of Nutrition, HIV and Aids statistics indicated that up to 142,000 children in Malawi were suffering from the problem of acute malnutrition, with a further 42.4 percent being chronically malnourished.
However, just when the figures of children who are either suffering from acute malnutrition of chronic malnutrition have been declining, it seems that policymakers have been paying attention to one problem while neglecting another— namely progress of public projects such as roads.
Take, for instance, progress of the 62-km Zomba-Chingale Road which, once completed, would ease challenges farmers, traders and other road users face in areas where the tarred road would pass through.
By design, the road is expected to address transport challenges those who stay in Lirangwe [Blantyre], Chingale [Zomba] and Machinga [District] face. And, again, by time-frame design, part of the road were supposed to be long functional by now.
However, functionality has become part of wishful thinking for people in the affected areas because, as road projects covering more than the 62km stretch have seen the light of day, Chingale people are still waiting for a day of their salvation; that is, the day the road will be tarred and launched.
Initially, in 2018, the project was estimated to cost $139 million [about K13.62 billion]. It was included in the 2015-16 national budget, when the Roads Authority (RA) included it on the list of five roads it planned to work on starting from November 30 2015 to 2018.
The first phase of the road, which was supposed to cover 19km from Lirangwe to Chipini, was expected to be completed by September 2019, according to RA. But progress has been painfully slow.
So far, the government has spent K12.3 billion on the Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga Road project.
In 2018, the Central Government allocated funds amounting to K5.3 billion to mark commencement of the project.
The development saw former president Peter Mutharika laying a foundation stone at Lirangwe Trading Centre in Blantyre.
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the government allocated K2 billion to the road project and, again in the 2020-21 financial year, poured a similar amount amount of money into the project.
As at now, the government has allocated K3 billion into what has become the bottomless pit called Lirangwe-Chingale- Machinga Road Project.
Ironically— which is not surprising, by the way— no one seems to be as enthusiastic as in 2018 about the project starting with, of all people, legislators, community members and traditional leaders.
Blantyre North Member of Parliament (MP) Francis Phiso feels that believing that construction works will not be completed by its 2025 timeframe.
“There is no hope, actually, that the project will run according to its timeframe and this is very frustrating.
“To make matters worse, we really do not know if works will resume or not. The contractor abandoned the project a year ago. To say the truth, we have been told so many stories that we are no longer listening to anyone,” Phiso says.
The parliamentarian adds that what makes the whole situation worse is that he and constituents do not have an idea about how funds allocated to the project have been used.
Phiso says he does not understand how, despite the government pouring money into the project since the 2018-19 fiscal year, there is little, if any, progress on the ground.
“I have just left everything in the hands of God. Maybe, one day, the Treasury will provide a breakdown of funds’ utilisation. Right now, that information