Earlier this year, heavy rains prompted massive flooding across Malawi, displacing more than 174,000 people. The floods destroyed homes, ravaged farmlands, and compromised access to clean water and sanitation infrastructure.

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Malawi

Malawi

Malawi is a small, densely populated country in Southeastern Africa, bordered by Tanzania to the north, Zambia to the west, and Mozambique to the east and south. The majority of the country's 15 million residents live in rural areas, while the urban population is concentrated in Lilongwe and Blantyre, the two largest cities.

About 50% of Malawians live below the national poverty line and according to the most recent Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) Report by UNICEF and WHO, 95% of people in urban areas and 83% in rural areas have access to safe water. But these statistics are considerably inflated: Water For People–Malawi’s current understanding of the water situation in the 21 low-income areas of peri-urban Blantyre is that only 38% of people have access to water that meets government standards, and in the rural district of Chikhwawa only 42% have access to safe drinking water. Access to sanitation is much lower, with 22% of urban and 8% of rural dwellers using improved sanitation facilities.

Water For People has been working in Malawi since 2000. In 2006, it changed its strategy from small projects in widespread areas to concentrated efforts in three regions: peri-urban Blantyre and the rural districts of Chikhwawa and Rumphi. Water For People - Malawi has become a leader in the water and sanitation sector in the country, promoting innovative and sustainable approaches to water and sanitation services.

Statistics

Rural access to improved water:
82%
Rural access to improved sanitation:
53%
Population:
15,906,000
Languages:
English, Chichewa
Per capita income:
$902
Life expectancy (M/F):
57/58
Under-five mortality rate:
52/1,000 live births

Source: World Health Organization

Regions

The Everyone Forever program targets specific districts and municipalities that can act as a model for replication across the country. Blantyre is located in southern Malawi, and is the second largest city in the country with a population of 700,000, 70% of which live in the peri-urban areas. Typical of high-growth urban areas in the developing world, many of the city’s residents live in areas lacking basic water and sanitation services. Rural Chikhwawa is located 30 miles south of Blantyre, and its 484,000 people consists mostly of subsistence farmers, with an average annual income of $23USD.

Water For People-Malawi also works in the district of Rumphi, focusing on increasing access to sanitation through Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programming. Rumphi is located in northern Malawi and has a population of approximately 169,000.

Partners

Lasting water and sanitation solutions can only be achieved when key players in the private sector, civil society, and local government are involved. Water For People collaborates with the Blantyre Water Board and City Assembly, the Chikhwawa and Rumphi district assemblies; local NGOs the Hygiene Village Project and ARCOD; private sector business development service provider Tools for Enterprise and Education Consultants (TEECs); and the University of Malawi-Polytechnic.

Moving Forward

Water For People–Malawi continues to promote Sanitation as a Business to provide households with sustainable sanitation services. In peri-urban Blantyre and Chikhwawa, we will continue to facilitate businesses that provide various toilet construction and emptying services to families. We will also continue to build the capacity of Water User Associations in Blantyre, through the recently established WUA coalition, so that all of the 21 low-income areas have a strong water management system. In addition, over 60 communities in Chikhwawa will gain access to safe drinking water, and trainings for mobile mechanics will continue. In both Chikhwawa and Rumphi, increased access to sanitation will be promoted through the CLTS programming approach.

Innovate Initiatives for Permanent Solutions

Water For People–Malawi’s Sanitation as a Business program shifts from traditional, subsidy-driven sanitation approaches to a business-driven model. The program uses sanitation as a vehicle for business development by merging principles of market research and segmentation with comprehensive community involvement and thorough evaluation of results. Water For People-Malawi is increasing sanitation services in peri-urban Blantyre and Chikhwawa by supporting local business development service provider, TEECS, to train entrepreneurs in toilet construction and emptying. We have also worked with Opportunity International Bank of Malawi to establish sanitation loans for households to purchase toilets, and we are supporting the CLTS model to generate demand for toilets.

Water For People–Malawi is developing alternatives to water committees to balance responsibility for water point maintenance in Chikhwawa. These volunteer committees are generally fragile, lose members when families move, lack skills transmission, and are affected by local politics and illness. So the mobile mechanics program trains local mechanics to provide regular maintenance and timely repair of water systems for a fee paid by the water committees. In addition, Water For People-Malawi is helping to establish distribution points for pump spare parts by working with shop owners to carry spare parts that mechanics and communities can purchase. This private sector approach has the potential to provide better service, less downtime, and greater efficiency. It has been recognized by Malawi’s national Ministry of Water Development and Irrigation, which is creating a manual to facilitate the establishment of mechanics across the country to support the operation and maintenance of rural water supply.

Water For People–Malawi is working in the low-income areas of Blantyre to establish Water User Associations to manage communal water points (water kiosks). A WUA is generally composed of an elected board, an executive committee, and paid staff, including a bookkeeper, water sellers, water inspectors, and plumbers. It uses communal water kiosks, where people can purchase water by-the-bucket. We support the WUA with technical (water point maintenance and repair), financial (tariff development and financial accountability), and human resource support necessary to manage the water system. Water For People-Malawi also facilitates contracts between the WUA and Blantyre Water Board (BWB), so the WUA is responsible for paying the BWB for water piped to the kiosks it manages (usually 25 to 50).

Since its start, the program has established eight WUAs in Blantyre, which have been able to pay down the debt owed to Blantyre Water Board, rehabilitate and repair water kiosks, and extend services to reach more people. 330 water kiosks have been built or rehabilitated and 550 new jobs created, primarily for women.