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Fodya community craves for clean water

Written by  Steve Chirombo
Women drawing water from a shallow well within Nyakamba River for porridge in the next day...Pic by Steve Chirombo Women drawing water from a shallow well within Nyakamba River for porridge in the next day...Pic by Steve Chirombo

CHIKWAWA, September 5: Imagine your children telling you that during break time at school, they went with friends to drink water from a certain river nearby.

Granted, your relations telling you that the water you drank after taking meals was drawn from the river down your village or town, which is shared by animals and people. How would you react to both situations?

Such is the life for people under Group Village Head Fodya in Senior Chief Ngabu’s area in Chikwawa district. Communities in this area drink and use water from unprotected sources like Nyakamba River, which flows through the village in Chikwawa Nkombezi Constituency.

 Within the village, there are a few potable water sources that usually crammed with long queues of people in dire need of water.

Group Village Head Fodya has 14 villages. Out of these, only five villages have boreholes that produce good water. The rest of the nine villages have to endure long distances to other villages hunting for potable water.

The nine villages have very few boreholes that are functional. Sadly, they produce salty water which is unfit for human consumption. As such, most communities draw water from unprotected shallow wells as their alternative sources of water.

No wonder, the recent past has seen frequent outbreaks of cholera hitting Chikwawa district. 

Elisi Nyamithambo is a resident of Tabu Village. Most people in her area draw water from Nyakamba River for consumption and other domestic uses.

 “We do not have a functioning borehole that produces potable water. The ones available are either dry or produce salty water. So we abandoned them,” she says.

 “The available sources are the rivers where we share with animals. This is not healthy for us and we are tired of this situation.”

Lack of potable water is not the problem for villages only. Even institutions that provide critical social services to the development of the country are also trapped in this.

Mwalwamba Primary School, located about six kilometers from Ngabu Trading Centre, is one such institution. The school has an enrolment of 700 learners and it has no nearby water source to serve this group.

“During break time, learners run to rivers to quench their thirsts,” says Robert Magaso, head teacher at the school.

“The porridge we serve them under the school feeding program is prepared with the same water from rivers,” he adds.

This, he says, poses fear of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery and cholera among others.

Magaso blames duty bearers for their lack of response to the needs of the school and the villages in general.

“I presented the problem to relevant authorities in 2015. But up now nothing has come up,” he says.

During a recent meeting by National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust, Joseph January - a representative of Group Village Head (GVH) Fodya - pointed a finger at the district council for not helping their area.  

“We reported the matter to the District Commissioner’s office and other duty bearers but nothing is being done. All we need now is assistance from well-wishers,” says January.

Councillor for Nyakamba Ward Betason Tito sympathizes with the communities and says duty bearers are trying to find means of addressing this challenge.

“We are in the process of liaising with non – governmental organizations to help us with the provision of potable water. Let me assure people that they should expect to have potable water here anytime soon,” says Tito while at the same time appealing to communities to treat the current water before using it as a precaution.

The villages under GVH Fodya are in Chikwawa Nkombezi constituency. Member of Parliament for the area Lloyd Malola says there is now some light at the end of the tunnel.

Malola says one organization, Water for People, has embarked on a project to drill 125 boreholes, besides maintaining other 30 boreholes.

”There is hope that anytime soon communities will access potable water,” he says.

Malola admits that the problem in GVH Fodya is a menace but asks for peoples’ patience in awaiting the fruits of Water for People and then move forward from there.

“Let’s wait and see what Water for People will offer. Thereafter, we will sit down with Area and Village Development Committees to map the way forward to ensure that at the end of it all, we provide clean and safe water to communities within a walking distance,”  he says.

Enock Chinkhuntha, NICE Southern Region Civic Education Officer says the challenge of lack of access to water is a violation of rights in a democratic society.

Chinkhuntha says his organization will continue empowering communities in demanding their rights by taking duty bearers to their task.

“We will work very closely with the concerned communities to ensure that they get the best quality social services just like any other community in the country as a fulfillment and enjoyment of their right to good health,” he says.

But for now, communities in the area of GVH Fodya will continue waiting before they realize the dream of living in the glory of the famous slogan: ‘water is life.’