The first drop of water
She has brought her six month-old daughter Mphatso to Kasungu District Hospital to be treated for diarrhoea. During the night she has spent in hospital, Mphatso has been vomiting and is clearly getting weaker.
“It is clear that Mphatso has diarrhoea as she has all the signs and symptoms. This is not the first time she has been brought in suffering from diarrhoea,” says nurse Bernadetta Kaleramayuni.
Joyce explains that she has no access to safe and clean water in her village and has to rely on water from Bua river. Although the local health committee has taught her on how to use chlorine, Joyce says she cannot afford it.
“I know the dangers of drinking unprotected water, but I have no choice. We walk a long distance to draw water from the river. If my child is thirsty, I cannot deny her the only water I have.” Mphatso will be discharged only when she gets better but Joyce doesn't know when that will be. It could take anywhere between three to seven days.
Back in her village, there is excitement. The people of Chilowamadambe village have just been informed that a borehole will be installed. The usual morning chores have been abandoned as scores of people gather to witness history in the making.
Chilowamadambe village, located in Kasungu district in central Malawi has never had piped or ground water since the first settlements began appearing in 1966. Bua river has been the only source of water, exposing children like Mphatso to water-borne diseases.
“Our women spend a lot of time in the hospital attending to their children. They could use this time doing other productive things if their children didn't fall sick so often,” says Village Headman Luka Nyanja.
“Every year we have cholera outbreaks and lose at least five people. To make matters worse, we lose people to crocodiles. Each time before drawing water, we have to ripple the waters with a shrub just to scare the crocodiles away. Water is life and we cannot do without it.”
Today, though, everyone is in a jovial mood. Thanks to UNICEF, a new borehole will be installed.
“I know our ancestors are smiling, there can be no better gift to the people of my village. Thank you UNICEF,” says Headman Nyanja.
UNICEF has supported the government to drill 63 boreholes in Kasungu district alone. The overall purpose of this project is to improve child health and wellbeing. Close to a million people will benefit. Villages like Chilowamadambe have been identified by the district authorities working together with traditional leaders. For children like Mphatso, a healthy and disease-free life is finally within reach.