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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. Of the country’s residents, 85% live in rural areas; the majority of the urban population is concentrated in Lilongwe and Blantyre, the two largest cities in the country.

More than 52% of Malawians live below the national poverty line according to the most recent Joint Monitoring Program Report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization; 84% of people have access to improved water and access to sanitation is much lower, with 53% using improved sanitation facilities. These statistics, however, 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 41% of people have access to water that meets government standards, while in the rural district of Chikhwawa only 56% have access to safe drinking water. More striking is that an estimated 15% of people in Chikhwawa and 60% of people in peri-urban Blantyre have access to 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. Since its start, 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.


Rural access to improved water:
Rural access to improved sanitation:
English, Chichewa
Per capita income:
Life expectancy (M/F):
Under-five mortality rate:
52/1,000 live births

Source: World Health Organization


Water For People–Malawi is focusing its efforts on peri-urban Blantyre and rural Chikhwawa. Blantyre is located in southern Malawi; it is the second largest city in the country with a population of 700,000, 70% of whom (approximately 534,000 people) live in the peri-urban areas. Typical of high-growth urban areas in the developing world, many of the city’s residents live in informal, peri-urban areas lacking basic water and sanitation services.

Chikhwawa is located 30 miles south of Blantyre, a rural district consisting mostly of subsistence farmers. Home to 484,000 people with an average annual income of $23 US.


Lasting water and sanitation solutions can only be achieved when key players—the private sector, civil society, and local government—are supported. Water For People is deeply involved with key local stakeholders, including: the Blantyre Water Board and City Assembly, the Chikhwawa and Rumphi district assemblies, local nongovernment organizations such as 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.

Current Work

Water For People–Malawi continues to promote Sanitation as a Business to provide households with sustainable sanitation services. In peri-urban Blantyre and Chikhwawa, Water For People–Malawi will continue to facilitate businesses that provide various toilet option and pit-emptying services to families to extend the lives of toilets. Water For People–Malawi will also facilitate the establishment of two WUAs in Blantyre so that all the 21 low-income areas have a strong water management system. In addition, 20 communities in Chikhwawa will gain access to safe drinking water, and training of mobile mechanics will continue. In both Chikhwawa and Rumphi, increased access to sanitation will be promoted through the CLTS programming approach.


Water For People–Malawi’s Sanitation as a Business program shifts away 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 a local Business Development Service (BDS) provider, TEECs, to train local entrepreneurs in toilet construction and emptying. To support access to these services, Water For People–Malawi has also worked with Opportunity International Bank of Malawi to establish sanitation loans that households can access to purchase the toilets.

Water For People–Malawi’s Sanitation as a Business program shifts from traditional, subsidy-driven sanitation approaches to a business-driven model.

Water For People–Malawi is developing alternatives to water committees being solely responsible for water point maintenance in Chikhwawa. 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.

Water For People–Malawi is working in the low-income areas of Blantyre to establish Water User Associations (WUAs) 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 sells water to people through communal water kiosks, where people purchase by-the-bucket water from sellers. Water For People–Malawi helps establish the WUA and provides it with the technical (water point maintenance and repair), financial (tariff development and financial accountability), and human resource skills necessary to manage the water system.