Five years ago, Wiliro Health Clinic in Karonga was in a dilapidated state and could not deliver mothers during night because it did not have electricity.
Now the situation is different. The health facility was renovated and improved to modern standards and Escom electricity was connected to the site in August 2009, thanks to Paladin Africa, owners of the Kayelekera Uranium Mine in the district.
“We, mothers, of the area are very thankful to Paladin for improving this facility. Expectant mothers used to travel long distances to Karonga District Hospital for delivery during night before Paladin sponsored the connection of electricity to this clinic,” says Nyauhango, one of the beneficiaries of the improved facility.
But it is not only Wiliro Health Centre which has benefited from Paladin’s Social Responsibility Programme. The company’s General Manager for International Affairs Gregory Walker explains that Paladin has ever since the opening of the mine in Karonga in 2009 undertaken a total of 70 social development programmes which have enormously contributed to the rise in the social economic status of the district.
He says so far the largest project is the Karonga Water Project, which was built from 2009 to 2010 at a cost of 1.65-billion to supply portable water to people of the district.
“We have just completed modifications to the water project, re-laying 760-metres of pipeline and installing four new intake strainers at an additional cost of K117-million. This project will significantly improve the pumping efficiency of the plant and ensure a more reliable water supply for Karonga,” says Walker.
Another big project undertaken by Paladin is the upgrade of Karonga Airport. The Australian listed firm, which financed the project to the tune of K264-million, carried out a 400m extension of the airport’s runway in conjunction with the Department of Civil Aviation.
Walker explains that the development has made it possible for Karonga Aiport, which currently handles the company’s small flights to handle bigger aircraft if commercial flights to the district resumes.
“Paladin’s Corporate Social Responsibility Programme is undertaken in compliance with the Kayelekera Development Agreement Obligations, which required Paladin to spend US$10-million (K1.6-billion). Paladin has significantly exceeded this requirement,” says Walker.
Indeed, the situation on the ground is a clear indication that Paladin is spending more for the people of Karonga in different sectors including health, agriculture and irrigation, education, transport and infrastructure development, water and energy.
In addition to the improvement of the Wiliro Clinic, Paladin has undertaken different projects in the health sector including the construction of a guardian area kitchen, bathroom and toilet complex for Karonga District.
In 2008, Paladin also undertook a project involving the re-roofing and renovation of a disused brick building to house a weekly health clinic in Kayelekera Village.
Says Walker: “Paladin has continued to provide transport for government health staff from Wiliro Health Clinic located 12km away to operate the rural clinic, which serves 550-650 patients a month alleviating the need for villagers to travel for treatment to Wiliro. The clinic is also an accredited HIV testing centre and provides infant emergency and family planning services.”
“Paladin is negotiating with the Ministry of Health to establish a permanently manned clinic in Kayerekera Village which will be built at the company’s expense.”
The firm also undertakes a malaria control programme involving activities to control the proliferation of mosquitoes in Kayelekera Village four times every year.
In addition, Paladin sent two Malawian doctors for training in Australia on the health effects of radiation as stipulated in its terms of the development agreement with the Malawi government.
But it is not only in the health sector where Paladin has left a big mark as far as development of Karonga is concerned. The firm started investing in agricultural development in the district as far back as 2007 when it facilitated an agricultural training project, run by an expatriate agricultural consultant and a former government agronomist, to assist local villagers to develop improved agricultural production practices.
The company supplied seed, fertilizer and implements to members of Kayelekera community, which included widows’ cooperatives not receiving support from other sources, at a cost in 2007 of MWK 7.5 million.
Walker says in 2008, his firm also trained farmers in Kayelekera Village in vegetable growing to supply seasonal vegetables to Kayelekera Mine.
“We also sunk two new borehole in Kayelekera Village and a blocked borehole was repaired, improving water supply in the village. A maize-mill was supplied to Kayelekera Village, alleviating the need for villagers to cart bagged maize long distances for milling. Cost of agricultural training and community support activities in 2008 totaled MWK 16.15 million,” he says.
In the education sector, Paladin has invested in a number of community projects including redevelopment of Kayelekera Primary School where four new classes were constructed to replace thatched, open shelters and four existing classroom shells were renovated.
Other projects have involved construction of infrastructure such as school blocks, teachers’ houses and provision of facilities to a number of primary schools in the district such as Kayuni, Kalowe, Nyungwe, chilambilo and Viraule.
Paladin’s on-going support for the education sector includes payment of school fees to 138 girls attending 22 secondary schools in Karonga District at a cost to date of K10.5-million.
In other interventions, Paladin played a number of roles to help the people of Karonga when an earth quake hit the area, sponsors cultural events and has also carried out a number of undertakings to protect the area’s environment.
“We are still spending more for the community of Karonga and Malawi as a whole because we hold them in high esteem as our partners in the Kayelekera uranium mining project,” says Walker.
Nyauhango and other beneficiaries of Paladin’s social responsibility programme, who are fulfilling their dreams of access to portable water, education and other basics courtesy of the programme could surely bare testimony to Walker’s assertions.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :