This is to let you know about the activities that are happening in Malawi with the Malawi Water Project. Accompanied by my sister, Peggy Beswick, we spent the month of May in Malawi. We joined Sarah Falconer who has been working with the Project since September and visited all three Project areas to see how things are going.
Our first visit was to our North Project where we met with the team members and learned more about villages that are along the shores of Lake Malawi. Because there aren’t roads to the villages, transportation is by boat and because the drilling equipment to drill a borehole is too heavy to carry by boat into the village, they are forced to use the lake water for drinking. The water is contaminated and villagers especially children get sick from drinking it. There are often outbreaks of cholera in these villages.
We went with our team to see one of the villages and give a presentation on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene as well as introduce the biosand filter to the community.
Everyone listened intently to the presentation and were excited about the prospect of getting filters in their village. We are partnering with an organization called Luke International who is going to donate funds to construct 5 filters that will be installed in this community. Our team will install and follow-up on the filters to make sure they are working properly and the home owners know how to take care of them.
A Health Committee has been set up in the village to help families create a healthy home environment. Two villagers are going to be chosen to come and receive training at our factory site. These two participants will learn how the filters are made and how they work. They will be the first contact for the villagers when something is not working.
We stayed at the guest house of the Anglican Diocese of Northern Malawi in Mzuzu and met with “Sarah’s Girls”. Sarah has a group of 10 little friends who can’t wait until she comes to see them. Sarah has been teaching them English in the evenings after work and is a positive factor in their lives.
During our visit with our Central Team, we drove to a village on another lake called Lake Chilwa. Villagers here are also forced to use lake water to drink since the water table has gone down so low that many of the shallow wells do not have water any more. Two of the team members, a Biosand Implementer and a Community Health Promoter along with our Field Coordinator came with us to follow-up on the filters that were installed about a month ago. This community is using a shallow hand dug well for their water which is very contaminated.
One of the filters had a block in the vinyl tubing so the flow rate was very slow. Felix, our Biosand Implementer was able to dislodge the blockage with a bicycle pump and the flow rate was back to normal.
We met a young man who told us that before his family received a filter, he was suffering from serious skin rashes from bathing in the contaminated water. He now uses the filtered water to bathe and his skin has cleared up. He has no more skin problems and he was so happy.
The chief and his wife who have given us the land to erect the shelter to make the filters are very kind and want to help the Project. The chief’s wife gave Sarah a chitenjay (wrap that is used for a skirt).
They are happy to have the shelter and have given a room of their house to hold the jerry cans for storage of the filtered water and other supplies for making the filters. The shelter to construct the filters is rudimentary but it does the job until we have the funds to construct a factory like the one we have finished in the South.
We did some water testing and had to work by candlelight as the electricity is so intermittent. We explained the testing and the results to the team who were very interested to see the reduction in the number of ecoli after the water had been filtered.
Our next adventure was a trip to the South Project to see the completed factory building. Sarah has been overseeing the construction of the building which has taken about 4 ½ months to complete. Definitely a record in Malawi! The building has a work area to construct the filters, a training room, office, kitchen and storage room.
We had our team meeting in the open work area of the factory and we had a tour of the facility. The team members are so happy to have such a wonderful work area. There is a lot of potential for the Anglican Diocese to generate a source of funds to be donated to the Malawi Water Project. Some ideas include renting out the training room, supplying lunches at conferences and offering printing services to the public. Lots of ideas are coming from the team and from the Administration at the Diocese on how the building can generate a source of funds for the Project. These activities will move the Project towards sustainability which is our long term goal.
The grand opening occurred on the 25th of May and Bishop Kalemba of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi dedicated the new building. A TV reporter and cameraman attended and took pictures of the ceremony. We were pleased to have several dignitaries from the community including 7 Village Headmen, 2 Traditional Authorities (elected leaders of several villages) and representatives from churches in the area including the nearby Mosque. We also had government representatives who work in the area of development and health.
Following the ceremony we drove up the mountain to Chiromo 2, a village that has been working with the Malawi Water Project since 2014. There was a competition among several villages who are working with the Malawi Water Project and this community won the competition. The village is very clean, filters are well cared for and we viewed one of the cleanest latrines I have seen in Malawi.
Certificates were given to 6 community members who consistently used their filters, cared for them properly and had all of the health parameters for a healthy home.
The village headwoman, Delia Mtonyo received a certificate as well as a bucket with a tap and soap. She has been instrumental in making sure her village is healthy. After the ceremony we sat and talked with her and she was telling us that since 2014 they have been working on keeping their village clean and healthy. She said that her village is about 10 Kms away from the clinic and there used to be cholera outbreaks in her village. Often before villagers could get a person with cholera down the hill to the clinic they would have died on the way. She has eradicated cholera in her village by using the filters and by following the instructions of the team from the Malawi Water Project.
Everyone loved the drummers and dancers and really laughed at the drama group. The women did an excellent job of traditional dancing and singing. Here we are joining in wearing our chitenjay dresses.
It was an excellent day and the Dignitaries were impressed. The Project is becoming known which is good, however, we have increased demand for the filters and for our team to help villages create and maintain a healthy environment.
Our plans for the coming year are to move into more remote communities that are difficult to reach. The transportation costs will increase but it is very crucial for these communities to have access to filters and access to training on proper sanitation and hygiene which is saving lives.