Malawi beats MDGs on water

Lilongwe – Malawi has surpassed the 85 per cent Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) bench mark on the provision of portable water to the rural people and urban poor by 2015, Minister of Irrigation and Water Development Richie Muheya has announced. The minister made the announcement at the launch of the 2011 World Water Day held in the capital city Lilongwe. According to the minister one in every eight women in the world spend their time fetching water from distant water points while about 2.5 million people have no proper sanitation facilities. In his address at the function president Bingu wa Mutharika said that while the country has surpassed the UN target it must grapple to achieve quality water supply. He said as much as most people in the rural and urban settings have safe drinking water, the nation was challenged by the need to secure the sources of water. “People must fight deforestation around the places where this water is tapped as well as along riverbanks and mountains so that the country maintains a constant supply of this precious commodity,” he told a gathering at one of the cities growing squatter settlement of Mgona bustling with a population of 35, 000 people. Mutharika said while this year’s theme was “Urban Water Management”, the government of Malawi decided to go a step further to say “Urban Water Management A Responsibility for All”. He warned urban populations not to waste water because the mounting population pressure will lead to limited supply as the country’s water supplying bodies, Lilongwe, Blantyre, Southern, Central and Northern Region Water Boards would be stretched to provide adequate and quality water supply. “Let us take ownership by making sure that communities are in the forefront initiating and preserving water and sanitation projects,” he said. The urban population, as a percentage of the country’s 14 million population, is low but steadily growing. According to the 1998, population census results, 14 per cent of the population lived in the urban areas of the southern African state with 11 per cent living in the major cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba. The remaining three lived in the district and town centres. Lilongwe is currently the fastest growing city in Malawi and is expected to accelerate further following government policy to reinvigorate the city by moving all government key functions from Blantyre. The growth of the city has led to people invading urban space such as road reserves, stream reserves and open spaces claiming they need land for housing. This has brought problems in social service provision including the supply of portable water. In 1994 the Malawi government established, the National Water Development Programme with the intention to provide safe water to 80 per cent of the people that do not have access to portable water. Last year it launched a sanitation directorate to promote sanitation, hygiene and safe water distribution. The directorate is a step up on the heels of the establishment of the National Sanitation Policy in 2008. Water AID Malawi communication and learning officer Monalisa Nkhonjera says, “even though diarrhorea causes more deaths than malaria and HIV/AIDS, funds allocated to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene have increased proportionally.”

March 2011
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