Stop politicizing water supply, Malawian MPs told

As Malawi is heading towards the May 20 tripartite elections official campaign, incumbent and aspiring MPs have been asked to cease politicizing water supply.

The call has come from Kate Harawa, country director for Water For People, an organization working across Malawi promoting innovative and sustainable approaches to water and sanitation services.

Harawa said this during an interview with Nyasa Times in Blantyre on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the organization’s workshop with its local and international partners.

“Let’s stop politicizing the issues of water and am asking politicians to desist turning water supply into a campaign issue,” said Harawa.

Harawa: Water should not be politicised
Harawa: Water should not be politicised

She observed: “This is the time [campaign period] when politicians go about constructing boreholes and water kiosks in their constituencies to woo voters and after elections they are nowhere to be seen.”

Harawa further noted that politicians only construct boreholes without giving the people mechanical or managerial expertise.

Water For People has been working in Malawi since 2000, creating a partnership with local Malawian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that carry out water projects.

The organization empowers the NGOs and helps them develop the ability to financially and technically support safe drinking water projects.

Typical projects in Malawi include rural water and sanitation infrastructure, which among others include simple pit latrines, rainwater catchment tanks and hand-dug wells, which benefit between 200 and 1,000 people.

In addition to sustainable hardware infrastructure, Water For People believes that health and hygiene education is a critical component to the work. The organization funds workshops and educational sessions and provides materials to complement rural construction efforts.

Currently, with funding from the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund (CJF), Water For People is implementing projects which are focusing on climate change impacts on water resources in Malawi.

During the workshop on Tuesday, four major projects met to share learning with its partners including the Chikhwawa District Council and the Ministry of Water Development and Irrigation.

The Scottish Government’s engagement and delivery of CJF recognises that climate change has the greatest impact on the world’s most rural communities and £3 million was channeled into the four water-related climate adaptation projects in Malawi and one in Zambia.

Apart from the Scottish CJF, Malawi Government is also working with Tearfund partners through the ministries of Local Government, Water Development and Health as technical resource partners to improve resilience and access to water amidst climate change effects, targeting 14,000 households in Salima and Chikhwawa.

The project led by VSO are bringing skilled climate change advisers, volunteering for two years, and placing them in district planning departments to support district planners, village natural resources management committees and civil society networks.

Trocaire and the CADECOM national office act as an umbrella organization and are collaborating with government to collect field data to better understand impacts of climate change.

One of the projects on Integrated Water Resources Management in Chikhwawa has Hydrogeologists from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland working with Water For People and Chikhwawa district to map and evaluate the groundwater resources of the district for long-term planning.

Prof Bob Kalin from University of Strathclyde observes that groundwater is the major source of water for those living in the rural and peri-urban areas throughout Malawi.

“We are very pleased to work together with the district and Ministry of Water Development and Irrigation to develop a more holistic understanding of this important resource so the impact of climate change on this important source of water can be determined,” says the professor.

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