By Winston Mwale – Africa brief.
It’s around 3 AM in Kauma, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
Eluby Matengula, in her late 50s, together with several other women, is already clamouring for water at one of the unprotected wells in the area.
She says fighting among women as they scramble for water is a common sight around here.
“Women sometimes accuse each other of finishing the water, resulting in some people going for days without water,” Matengula says. “Since independence [in 1964], up to this year, save for the only kiosk [water selling points] whose taps often run dry, this area has had no borehole, not even a single one. We drink water which is dirty.”
Matengula, who looks tired and worn out, says that apart from the water kiosk, the only “reliable” community water source is a muddy well. That, she explains, “bathes children, cleans laundry, and is shared by livestock, as well as members of the community alike.”
Fifty-six years after independence, potable water is still a literal pipe-dream for many people in Lilongwe and elsewhere in Malawi
Matengula is typical of poorer families living in Malawi, who spend much of their time scavenging for water from unprotected sources because the crippled economy means they cannot afford to buy water from LWB kiosks (community water selling points).
Fifty-six years after independence, potable water is still a literal pipe-dream for many people in Lilongwe and elsewhere in Malawi.