World Bank Impressed with Water & Sanitation Project Amidst Covid-19

The World Bank has expressed its satisfaction with the progress the Lilongwe Water and Sanitation Project (LWSP) has made so far despite the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on the implementation process. This was voiced during the project mid-term review (MTR) which took place between April 26 and May 5, 2021.

LWSP, a World Bank/IDA funded project, once completed, will benefit about half a million residents of Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe, and surrounding areas by improving access to safe and clean drinking water and improved access to safely managed sanitation services. The project is being implemented by the Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) and the Lilongwe City Council (LCC) at the cost of USD 102 million.

Commenting after at the MTR mission closure, the World Bank Water and Sanitation Expert, Odete Duarte Muximpua, who is also LWSP’s Task Team Leader said despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the “Overall project performance” is good, particularly on the water supply component.

Muximpua was impressed with how both LWB and LCC have performed by continuing to implement the project despite negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and by reducing its impact on the project activities.

“The actual project benefits as per original design will only be realized after the ongoing water supply network and transmission works are completed, towards the end of this calendar year. However, the project has achieved some impressive results including those adjusted as part of the Covid-19 Response Package,” said Muximpua.

Through the Bank’s provided Covid-19 Response Package under the project, nearly 250,000 people have benefited from improved access to water supply through the smart water dispensers LWB has been installing in low-income areas across the city including the handwashing facilities.

In addition, LWB has been providing potable water to Covid-19 affected areas, including hospitals and other facilities during the pandemic, through a water bowser which was procured with funding from the World Bank.

“The project is now starting some investments on toilet upgrades in markets and schools. Together, these investments will significantly reduce the risk of exposure to pathogens and public health hazards,” said Muximpua.

She, however said more work is required on the supervision of contractors and other service providers to ensure that project activities are delivered efficiently within the remaining implementation timeframe.

“We expect that in the long term, more reliable and good quality water will lead to better public health and human development outcomes, including in reducing the prevalence of water-borne diseases, stunting and child mortality, and contributing to higher productivity, particularly among girls and women.”

On his part, LWB Acting Chief Executive Officer, Silli Mbewe said he was also impressed with the project’s consistency of attaining a Satisfactory Rating from the World Bank’s review missions, including the recent project MTR mission.

“LWB is very impressed with the project progress so far, with the project having gone just beyond its mid-term point at this stage. Again, as an institution, LWB has improved on the utility maturity rating from 2.8 to 3.1 and moving progressively towards the target utility maturity level of 4,” explained Mbewe.

Mbewe admitted that the Covid-19 pandemic affected some of the project implementation timelines, noting that some contractors are encountering challenges in importing materials.

“We have also had instances where consultants have not been able to travel, thereby compromising on timelines of some project deliverables. However, mitigation measures are in place, and we are optimistic of implementing the project within the project design timelines.”
LWSP, which commenced in 2018 and will be completed by 2023, has so far made strides in the rehabilitation and upgrade of the water distribution network and expansion to areas of the city not currently served by piped water.

On the other hand, LWB and LCC are undertaking sanitation preparatory activities, which, among others, include rehabilitation of the existing sewerage system and upgrading of the Kauma wastewater treatment plant. Additionally, 5,000 new sewer connections are expected to be installed to benefit about 90,000 people.

There will also be the construction of 8,000 improved sanitation facilities benefitting about 160,000 people from poor and vulnerable households within the city. Sanitation improvements will also cover some markets and schools.

Meanwhile, the Bank expects more engagement with various stakeholders involved in the project, including project beneficiaries, to ensure there is a higher uptake of the project’s offered services

The World Bank approved financing for the Lilongwe Water and Sanitation Project comprises $75 million credit and $25 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA), with the Government of Malawi providing $2 million.

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