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Thirsty along the lake



Each and every day, Catherine Kadango enjoys a beautiful view of the shores as waves ripple against the sandy beaches in Mangochi District.

She comes from Mwenyama Village, Traditional Authority Nankumba in the lakeshore district.

Her house is about half a kilometre from Lake Malawi.

In all seasons, Africa’s third largest freshwater lake has the precious liquid freely flowing. But Kadango’s family is as thirsty as those kilometres away from the water body.

It is only when she visits Mangochi Boma that she tastes clean water.

“We draw water from the lake, which exposes our lives to diseases such as cholera. Households do laundry and dishes in the lake.

“Some even wash soiled nappies there because there is no running water in our area. We consume all that because we don’t have a choice,” Kadango says.

Her story is a little different from Eliza Osman’s, who resides some kilometres from Mwenyama Village. There is a functional borehole in her area.

Even though this is the case, she and other residents there hardly use water from the borehole due to high levels of salt. Thus, the lake becomes the final saviour.

“Some people even use the shores of the lake for intimate activities such that used condoms sometimes get washed up into the lake,” Osman says.

The two households epitomise what several others along the lake go through in their search for water which makes up at least 20 percent of the country surface area.

They are often pushed to unsafe sources, a thing which jeopardises their health and even their physical safety as they pass through dangerous paths in search of water.

Member of Parliament for Mangochi Monkey Bay, Ralph Jooma, admits that several areas in the lakeshore stretch are in serious need of safe and clean water.

“Households close to some boreholes rarely use them because the water is salty. Others do not even have the boreholes altogether,” Jooma says.

Just slightly over 20 percent of Malawians have access to safely managed water sources despite that over 80 access it from improved sources.

The government is obliged to ensure that everyone accesses safely managed water sources by the end of this decade in line with commitments in the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is unlikely that the target will be met if households such as Kadango’s and Osman’s—along Lake Malawi—struggle to access safe water.

The United Nations estimates that worldwide, one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water; two out of five people do not have a basic hand-washing facility with soap and water while more than 6,773 million people still practice open defecation.

For Mangochi, Ibrahim Matola, who is Southern Region Water Board (SRWB) chairperson, which supplies water to the lakeshore district, admits the challenges.

He says the board has, therefore, sourced funds for projects that will ensure water availability is scaled up to more areas in the Southern Region.

Matola reveals that so far, SRWB is rolling out an K11 billion project which will have an intake at Nkhudzi Bay in Mangochi to benefit at least 92,000 households.

The project, according to Matola, is also expected to boost tourism in the lakeshore district.

“We will serve citizens without compromise. We will provide them with safe and clean water. They should not drink dirty or salty water,” he says.

But for those lacking the precious liquid now, talk alone is not enough. They say they want to see real action on the ground, confident that they will shift from unsafe sources.

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