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Female Face of Malawi’s Gut-Wrenching Poverty.

Malawi, formerly known as Nyasaland, has been independent for the past 47 years now - long enough to development strides that one would not think that there might still be communities without access to safe drinking water.

 

But, believe it or not, as this reporter recently found out in Dowa, there are still some communities where, since colonial days, have been drawing water from unprotected sources, including rivers.

Picture this if you can: A group of people is standing on a river bank. Everyone in the group is attentively listening to a middle-aged woman who, with her face plastered with sadness, narrates how some people in her beloved village, especially women, have perished in the jaws of crocodiles.

Now and again she points to the crocodile-infested river where hundreds of communities have no choice but still fetch water there.

And then to stress her point, the woman beckons her two friends to join her dramatize what used to happen in the village before they got 'liberated'.

Everyone listening to the account nearly sheds tears.

This is not fiction at all.

This happened Saturday 21 April when Mrs. Regina Phiri, a 40-year-old mother of six narrated how for the past 47 years people of Nkhungulu in Traditional Authority Chakhaza in Dowa district have been struggling to access water, either for drinking or other household chores.

To her it is meaningless to claim that this country is independent because people in her village, have been drawing water from the nearby crocodile-infested Bua River.

To her and other people in her village mentioning the word ‘independence’ is a mockery to the suffering they have been going through since Malawi attained the so called independence from the British.

“In my lifetime, I’ve seen or heard of so many women who were killed as they were drawing water from Bua River,” she says

Actually, Mrs. Phiri says herself was once attacked by a crocodile, but thank heavens - she survived after being rescued by her husband who had accompanied her to fetch water on that day.

But not many have been so lucky to escape from the jaws of the marauding crocodiles in the river whose source is Mchinji and outlets in Lake Malawi.

But just how did women in the village manage to fetch water from this crocodile-infested river all these years?

Through a mini-drama, Mrs. Phiri, together with her two friends, demonstrated it all: Women would go to the river armed with stones.   They would then throw the stones into the river to scare away the predators, and then dash to draw water, before scampering back home with whatever little water they had fetched.

“This was how women in Nkhungulu village have been drawing water all these years while some women made it back to the village, others fell prey to the crocodiles,” narrates Mrs. Phiri.

And Group Village Headman Nkhungulu says it was sad that all the previous governments did not bother to sink a borehole for them,

But, thanks to the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi Lilongwe Diocese, people in the area have a borehole that has seen CADECOM cough K1.4m

“When the development agency officials told us their plans to drill the borehole we didn’t believe them because we were simply fed up with such promises which had been made before by some NGO's,” says village head Nkhungulu               .

In fact CADECOM has drilled eight boreholes within its catchment area of Traditional Authority Chakhaza in Dowa.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Regina Phiri says the borehole drilled by CADECOM in Nkhungulu village will save women from the jaws of death, either through cholera or crocodiles in Bua River.

It is unthinkable that 47 years after independence Malawians must be struggling to access safe drinking water but that is the fact on the ground that needs concerted efforts to be addressed failure which the much touted independence is nothing for a poor villager.—Zodiak Online

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