Thames Water works its magic in Malawi

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Among the countless benefits that a new and bountiful supply of clean water brings to the village of Kampingo, one stands out for Ellen Bwani.

"As of now, my chest pains are a thing of the past," she said. "My health has drastically improved as I'm able to draw water from this kiosk. I praise God for your help and goodwill."

There was a time when getting water meant a back-breaking trek to a distant dam for Ellen, 41, and her fellow villagers. Most of the wildlife in the area used it as their water source, too, and diarrhoea-type diseases were common among the people of Kampingo.

But now, thanks to the efforts of Thames Water fundraisers, the support of WaterAid and the local council and its partners, the village has installed a 5,000-litre tank at a communal water point. In addition, changes made to the pipe network means water is now available for 12 hours a day.

Smart and clean and clearly cherished by the community, the kiosk is located in the middle of a large group of houses and close to a local market, adding to its status as the beating heart of Kampingo.

"I used to carry the biggest bucket I could find," said Ellen, "to help reduce the number of long trips going to and from the old water source."

Such labours are a distant memory for people like Ellen and Martha Banda, the wife of the village chief. She said that Kampingo used to suffer from a lot of diarrhoea cases and water disputes but, since Thames Water's intervention, there is a sense of peace, and good health.

Violet Zulunga, 40, is the woman in charge of the kiosk and can take much of the credit for the new air of harmony. "The previous water seller would be absent and not open the kiosk in good time," she said. "That made me apply for this position as I wanted my fellow community members to have access to water whenever they needed the resource. "I'm glad that I'm the water seller now and that things have greatly improved ever since."

When the tank is full, the entire community has access to the water for 48 hours, without fresh supplies needed from the Central Region Water Board (CRWB). This gives the community much greater protection from the power outages that affect the electric pumps and constantly interrupt supplies to the area.

Mussa Chintsimbo, the scheme manager for CRWB in the region, agreed that the new tank was crucial to the health and prosperity of local people. "Since we've had help from Thames Water we have seen a rise in the construction of water kiosks in several communities, with others having tanks that act as reservoirs," he said. "They ensure the constant supply of water and Kasungu region now has 95 kiosks which are being managed by Water Users Associations (WUAs)." Matama (Mineral and Appropriate Technology Applicable in Malawi), the local authority partner which constructed Kampingo's water tank, has also embarked on a project with WaterAid to improve sanitation and hygiene practices in the Kasungu region, via the Thames Loves Malawi project.

Matama representatives are working with the Village Saving and Loan initiative – a lending collective of local businesswomen – to construct pit latrines which have slab covers, which make them easier to clean and more hygienic.

Patuma Majuta, the VSL chair, said the group has 22 members and most of them have built new houses with toilets that have slabs. "Apart from helping women to be financially independent," she said, "we also champion sanitation and hygiene and advocate each and every member to have a slab toilet."

  • For more information and pictures, contact Martin Wells, Thames Water media team, by calling 07747 640222, or emailing martin.wells@thameswater.co.uk