Wells for Zoe takes water pumps to Mzimba

Wells for Zoe takes water pumps to Mzimba
from The Nation Newspaper, Malawi’s National Daily.
Thursday, 26 May 2011 10:49 Albert Sharra – Correspondent

John Coyne demonstrates how to assemble the pump

December 26 2002 is a day that will never go out of the memories of 32-year-old Mary Msimuko of Msira Village, Traditional Authority Mtwalo in Mzimba. This is the day she buried her husband and two children who succumbed to cholera in two consecutive days, turning her into a childless widow.

According to Msimuko, the three got cholera after drinking contaminated water from a nearby river which is the main source of water for people in the village, who do not have access to tap water and boreholes.

“Doctors told me that the three died of dehydration caused by cholera. The water we were drinking was contaminated by running rainwater because the streams were not protected and when doctors came to taste the foods and water at our house, they found out that the water was contaminated,” she said.

But Msimuko is not the only one who has lost her family members to waterborne diseases. In 2005 and 2006, when the country received heavy rainfall, many people lost their lives to such diseases in the district.

Statistics kept at Mzuzu Central Hospital indicates that about 10 people in Mzimba lose life to waterborne diseases every rainy season due to lack of clean water.

Mzimba is the largest district in Malawi. With a population of over 850 000, only less than 200 boreholes have been constructed since 2000.

According to an environmental officer at Mzimba District Hospital Chimwemwe Jella, the fight against disease outbreaks and sanitation has been poor because most people rely on river or stream water.

But people in the district have every reason to smile with the coming of an Irish organisation called Wells of Zoe which is running a project aimed at supplying communities with clean drinking water in the district and the surrounding areas.

The organisation is installing shallow well pumps in the communities and already, over 4 000 pumps have been planted in Mzimba and part of Nkhata Bay and Karonga since 2006, benefiting over 100 000 people.

Speaking during a media tour, one of the project co-founders Mary Coyne said her organisation came up with the project after noting that most people in the district were drinking unsafe water.

“Water tops in any health issue and we were shocked when we first visited the country in 2005 to see women walking long distances carrying dirty water. As a charitable organisation, we decided to assist by providing water pumps. So, we decided to come up with a simple pump which can be repaired by anyone cheaply and we are happy today that the pump is efficient,” Coyne said.

The simple water pumps are made using two plastic pipes, a nail and a rubber disk cut from the inner tube of an old tyre, but it pumps water from as deep as 18 metres.

The Wells of Zoe is also training the communities on how to repair the pumps.

According to Coyne, the pumps are durable and each has a capacity to support over 500 people in a day.

To ensure that every community has access to these taps, the organisation opened a factory that manufactures the pumps in Mzuzu and community leaders can go and ask for one for their communities free of charge.

They are only asked to provide a place, sand and bricks for the construction.

One of the beneficiaries, Group Village Headman Kadambo, said the project is a relief to his community which had no access to clean water.

“We believe cholera and diarrhoea cases will be eliminated because we now have clean water,” he said.

Director of Water and Sanitation at Water for Life, a non-governmental organisation based in Lilongwe, Masautso Ng’ube, says the simple pump is a relief to Malawi because the boreholes have a shorter lifespan.

“Government has been drilling many boreholes countrywide, but very few are still working. I feel if we can embrace this simple pump, our communities will never go short of clean water,” he said, asking Wells of Zoe to open other factories in the Southern and Central regions.

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