13 December 2017
Breaking News

Children under health risk from unsafe water

Written by  Yamikani Yapuwa
DIRTY DRINKING WATER: The only source of water for people of Mkowa Village - Pic by Yamikani Yapuwa DIRTY DRINKING WATER: The only source of water for people of Mkowa Village - Pic by Yamikani Yapuwa

Blantyre, December 06, 2017: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 6.1 calls for member states and governments to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.

The SDG further call for availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  
Mkowa Village in Traditional Authority Ngokwe in Machinga is one area that needs help from the tenets under this SDG.

People in the area have had no potable water since time immemorial. Many locals rely on water from shallow wells not fit for human consumption.

Maria Black, 40, has been a resident of the village since she was born and attest to the experiences people go through because of water challenges the area faces.

“I often wake up as early as 3 am to fetch water for household use. The water is dirty and poses a health risk,” Black says.

The local leadership in Mkowa village bemoans official negligence that has left the area short of social amenities.

Village Head Mkowa says the survival of his subjects is largely dependent on God’s grace.

Please help us with a source of portable water says Group Village Head Mkowa - Pic by Yamikani Yapuwa

“Many people especially children are often victims of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea because of the filthy water we consume here,” Chief Mkowa says.

Member of Parliament for Machinga South East, Wilson Ndomondo acknowledges the water challenge in Mkowa Village.

However, the legislator apportions the blame to insufficient allocations of Constituency Development Fund towards water development programmes like drilling of boreholes.

“We are allocated about K12 million. From that amount, we are only given K1.5 million every phase for drilling a borehole that requires about K3 million,” Ndomondo says.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund joint monitoring programme of 2017 produced a report on the progress of global efforts in ensuring access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

The report examines the safety and management of drinking water in line with 2030 agenda for SDGs.

It states that every individual should have access to water for drinking, cooking and food preparation which is free from pathogens and elevated levels of toxic substances at all times.

However, Harold Yapuwa, a Water Scientist working with the Water and Sewer Authority in Washington DC in the United States of America, says swamp water like the one being used by people of Mkowa Village in Machinga contains pathogenic microorganisms responsible for carrying waterborne diseases.

He points out that such water also carries various infections like cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

“Because of this, there is high incidence of infection and high mortality rates for children under the age of five years when exposed to unsafe water. Waterborne diseases like diarrhoeal are the second leading cause of death in under – five children,” Yapuwa says.

The 2013 WHO’s special report on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation indicates that at least 1.5 million children die before the age of five annually due to illnesses associated with drinking unsafe water.

Similarly, a report by Water Aid America shows that in Malawi, over 1700 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Former Ministry of Health and Population spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe in an interview with Malawi News Agency (Mana) agrees that diarrhoea is among the top three diseases contributing to both under – five child illnesses and deaths in the country.

“A survey conducted recently shows that 52 percent of illnesses Malawi registers can be avoided if people practice good hygiene and sanitation.
 
“Because of poor hygiene and sanitation, we normally have many waterborne related infections like diarrhoea and typhoid,” Chikumbe says.

He further says that if communities were to practice high levels of sanitation and hygiene, the country could avoid the high numbers of infections and save close to half the money spent on drugs.

“Normally, our budget for drugs is supposed to be around K17.5 billion per year. By preventing waterborne related illnesses, we can save about K8.5 billion which is sufficient to construct a single district hospital,” Chikumbe adds.

The situation in Mkowa Village remains a big health threat if quick interventions are not found in time.
The area will continue to suffer from diarrhoea and other waterborne illnesses with many unlucky children eventually dying before celebrating their fifth birthdays.

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