FEW days after people in Lilongwe were treated to filthy water by their water supply board, The Sunday Times can reveal that there is a looming health disaster in the high density township of Masasa in Mzuzu as people are drinking water from sources contaminated with sewer waste from the prison.
Masasa is one of the townships facing serious water challenges thus forcing people to drink from wells, streams and rivers infested with fecal deposits from the reformatory facility.
Being an informal settlement area with low levels of income, a majority of households do not have access to piped water. The Sunday Times observed that people in the area are bearing the brunt of absence of a proper sewer system in the city of Mzuzu, with no special arrangements for liquid waste disposal from institutions such as the prison.
“We are living dangerously, sanitation related infections are common, children usually suffer from skin infections because they are usually out playing in the polluted swamps,” said Margaret Phiri, one of the residents we talked to.
She said due to the tough economic times, some of the residents with access to piped water hardly afford the water bills which she said are exorbitant for them to afford.
Ward Councillor for the area Yona Mkandawire sympathised with his subjects and wondered why prison authorities have not invested in waste stabilisation ponds in the short term for treatment of waste.
He thus stressed on the need for the Mzuzu City Council to procure vacuum tankers that would cater for big institutions like the prison, schools and hospitals.
“It is a pity that at council level the Mzuzu City does not offer sludge emptying services. We lobbied the Northern Region Water Board to reduce the connection fee for piped water but it seems nothing has changed, people are still drinking from the hazardous sources,” lamented Mkandawire.
He disclosed that his efforts to engage prison authorities have not borne fruits, saying he asked to seek clearance from their bosses in Zomba.
“At the meantime, the best thing is to ensure safe and potable drinking water for every household in Masasa. Perhaps we might start thinking of boreholes to save the situation,” he added.
Malawi Prison Services could not grant us an interview after several attempts but in a separate interview, Executive Director for Friends of Mzuzu Community (Fomco) Precious Mtambo reiterated the recent stance by the Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) that such developments are a violation of human rights.
“People of Masasa are being denied their right to quality life, someone has to be held responsible for what is happening. This only tells us how far as a country we have gone in disregarding the very people we are meant to serve,” Mtambo said.
Few months ago Chief Executive Officer for Mzuzu City Council Macloud Kadammanja said they would need over K5 billion to make sure that Mzuzu has a proper sewage disposal system.
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