from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) – THE developing world is synonymous with governments prioritising sectors like energy, roads, agriculture and health ahead of water but Malawi has stood out in putting the special liquid and at the core of its service delivery strategy.
This has proven a masterstroke particularly in this era of the coronavirus (COVID-19) scourge that is wreaking havoc across the world.
Thus, it is no fluke that the Southern African country was among the last countries to record outbreaks of the virus or is among the least affected by the pandemic.
Accordingly, Malawi has received global acknowledgment, then latest in a line of recognition being a prestigious accolade for a water and sanitation project in the northern town of Mzimba.
The scheme – known as the Integrated Urban Water and Sanitation Project- is credited with curbing the spread of the COVID-19 in the country.
Malawi has confirmed 57 cases of the virus and three deaths as well as 24 recoveries to date.
Improvements in sanitation have also helped combat diarrhea.
Some 1 000 jobs have been created, and attacks on women while trekking for water in previous eras (periods) have also been curbed.
Co-financed by the Malawi government of President Peter Mutharika, the Mzimba project has duly been recognised with the global Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development in the Governments and Social Foundations category.
“This prestigious award is especially relevant to current global efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent need for enhanced hygiene practices,” Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), said.
AfDB co-financed and supervised the water and sanitation project.
Such is the significance of the project that its major works were completed 12 months ahead of the December 2020 completion date.
Malawi’s Northern Region Water Board implemented the scheme.
Engineer Tutus Mtegha, Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Region Water Board, said before the implementation of the project, the water and sanitation system was almost comatose.
“We now provide access to potable water to 95 percent of our customers, 22 hours a day,” Mtegha said.
The region of Mzimba has some 611 000 people.
Apart from households, schools, and even prisons, in Mzimba have benefitted from the project.
Sanitation facilities have been constructed at local schools.
The Mzimba Prison has confirmed a reduction in skin ailments due to potable water supply and improved hygiene practices.
In 2019, the Lilongwe Water Board won the coveted Water Service Provider of the Year at the African Utility Week in Cape Town, South Africa.
“This award means a lot,” said Gustav Sikasima, the utility’s Corporate Planning Manager, said.
The award was in recognition of the strides made by the Lilongwe Water Board in the social impact of the people of the capital city as well as efforts made to ensure potable water for the area.
Gift Sageme, CEO of the Central Region Water Board, dissuaded governments from overlooking the importance of water security.
“What governments (African governments) do not realise, however, is that without water no sector can survive,” Sageme said.
– CAJ News