Clean water is one of the critical basic necessities for human life.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 urges United Nations member states to ensure their people have access to safe drinking water and sanitation by the end of this decade.
The goal focuses on sustainable management of water resources, wastewater and ecosystems, and acknowledging the importance of an enabling environment.
But in Lilongwe City, several residents continue to access water from unprotected shallow wells.
Village Head Mtungambera in Traditional Authority Maliri says over 320 households in his area do not have access to running water or boreholes.
The wells which people in his area rely on often dry up when rain has stopped falling
During our recent visit to the area, we found women drawing water from unprotected wells, which they took home for drinking, cooking and washing.
Ahead of elections, politicians visit these people with promises that they will provide clean water when voted into power.
The moment they ascend to power, the promises vanish.
“I was born in 1959 and I have never seen a borehole in our area. We drink from unprotected wells which we dig out in various spots which have water at particular moments,” says Nalia Zikapwe, a resident of Mtungambera Village.
When it rains, the water is there in abundance, but contaminated with waste washed down into the wells from every communal or household dumpsite.
Different kinds of objects also find their way into the wells which the locals cannot avoid because that is all what is available for them.
“When we see boreholes in other areas, we feel like we are not Malawian enough. We feel we don’t have rights which others elsewhere enjoy. It is sad,” Zikapwe says.
Such sentiments are echoed by several other residents of Mtungamera Village who admit some diseases that attack them emanate from consumption of unsafe water.
“For us to access water from some wells, we have to step there, which means if we are carrying germs on our feet, we transfer them into the water which we later consume,” another resident of the village Ellina Twuboyi says.
Group Village Head Mtungambera paints a picture of the suffering of his subjects who further endure long distances to their nearest dirty water points.
“Authorities advise us to drink water that is safe but that ends there. When we don’t have such water, we turn to the dirty wells. In the process, we suffer from sanitation-related illnesses,” the traditional leader says.
He further claims even when the water is clearly dirty, the people still drink it because that is what is available.
“It is only God that protects us. We are not different from animals that drink whatever water is available for them,” Mtungambera adds.
The villages are part of Lilongwe South West Constituency whose representative is Jean Sendeza.
When we presented the issue to her, the lawmaker—who is also Deputy Minister of Defence—said while the name of the village sounded familiar to her, she was not sure it was in her constituency.
She asked us to find out if there were other traditional leaders’ names in the water-stressed area and call her afterwards.
We did not manage to get a comment from the legislator after getting the name of another village close to Mtungambera.
We further asked Lilongwe Water Board what it takes for the utility institution to provide water to areas like Mtungambera.
The board’s spokesperson, Kondwani Kintu, said the concerned villagers can write the board requesting water kiosks and that “all the processes will be done”.
For those constructing houses, according to Kintu, there is the option of applying through the zone office to have their houses supplied with piped water.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.