Rain-fed thirst


Malawi is a land of contrasts.

I mean the negative type.

Take, for instance, the issue of hunger. It is becoming too frequent that a decade never passes without Malawians being ‘visited’ by hunger. Literally.


This is despite that we have a lake that serves as a water reservoir all-year round.

The lake does many good things to us. It gives us fish. Its waters are fresh. Those waters have the most diverse aquatic life on the earth.

You know what lake I am talking about: Malawi.


Lake Malawi aside, we have Lake Chilwa, Lake Chiuta, Lake Malombe— need I continue?

All these lakes have their own unique characteristic.

Of course, out of these lakes, it is Lake Malawi that has an outlet; the Shire River.

This makes areas around the Shire River suitable for irrigation, which we seem to underutilise, hence one of the unwelcome visitors to Malawi has been hunger.

Hunger at household level. Hunger at community level. Hunger at district level. Hunger at regional level. Hunger at national level.

The situation is really embarrassing, more so because Lake Malawi has not dried up— at least for the past 39 years of democracy.

Why are most people hungry, then? Poor planning.

Anyway. Enough talk on food insecurity.

I was belaboring the point above because I am saddened by the ironic nature of life in Malawi.

Maybe talking about Malawi — the whole Malawi— is overstretching things. Let me talk about Blantyre, then.

When the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services announced that we would have normal to above-normal rainfall, I marveled at the prospect, knowing that this means, if the rains fall well, they will help us shore up food production.

I was also happy that, since water problems are perennial in the part of Blantyre I reside, perhaps the problem would ease— this being the rainy season.

Why not, when the rains, which are the Mother of Water, are here?

I was wrong.

As I was jotting down my thoughts yesterday, I had spent five weeks without tapped water.

Yes, five weeks without tapped water in Blantyre City!

This is happening at a time cholera fatalities are increasing.

This is despite that, this week, Malawi has registered over 25,500 cumulative cholera cases since the disease broke out in March last year.

To make matters worse, the number of cases is growing by at least 500 per day.

By Monday this week, 841 people had died of cholera.

Some of the most hit cities are those of Lilongwe and Blantyre, which explains why the Presidential Taskforce on Covid and Cholera announced, on January 2, 2023, that it had imposed a two-week suspension on school opening in Blantyre and Lilongwe cities.

This was done to save lives. This was done to preserve life. Understandably so. Children are the future of this country. And these children are preparing for the future through studies. It would be paradoxical, therefore, for learners and students— who are the future— to get cholera infections and die in the name of molding a future.

I, therefore, believe that the taskforce made a good call.

However, without cholera, the taskforce would not have made that call.

And, to avoid such calls in future, we all must do our best to stem cholera cases. The best way of reducing the cases is by following hygiene protocols.

We, ordinary people, can do so by following preventative measures.

Water boards, too, have a role to play. They have to make water available to users. I mean, potable water— something people in my township have been deprived of for five weeks now.

We are city mongers that are counting on rain water now. Literally.

Someone, somewhere, must be sleeping on the job.

This, Dear Pain, is the strangest of all times— time when people are being made to wait for tapped water for weeks on end, and yet this is supposed to be the rainy season.

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