Water Access in Malawi
Improving Access to Clean Water in Malawi
Engineers Without Borders is identifying and scaling-up innovative approaches to improve clean water access in Malawi.
Widespread water failure
Chrispin Damubla’s job as Water and Sanitation Officer in the district of M’mbelwa, Malawi is not easy. Although Chrispin leads several water projects aimed at empowering his community to access clean water, he knows that half of his community will not have access to safe water in the coming year. M’mbelwa is not alone – in Malawi, up to 40% of all water points simply don’t work.
Water infrastructure is often driven by inaccurate information about the water needs of rural communities in Malawi. Water points are not well mapped, causing wells and boreholes to be located too close to one another, or only in communities of high interest. As a result, many vulnerable families have been left behind.
Even when safe water is available, water technology often has a poor track record of sustainability. Poorly functioning wells are all too often installed, as implementing organizations do not take local variables into consideration. When wells do break down, most rural communities do not have access to repair training or spare parts to fix the problem – it is simple as a broken chain on a hand pump, and access to clean water for thousands of people is eliminated.
Learn about our volunteers in Malawi
Engineers Without Borders is developing innovative solutions to map, monitor and repair water points to improve the ability of district staff – like Chrispin Dambula – to keep safe water flowing through rural communities.
Mapping and monitoring water points
Mapping water points is a critical step towards improving clean water access for rural families in Malawi. Using an innovative tool we created to monitor the lifecycle of hand pumps, wells and boreholes, EWB volunteers have documented the location of water points across the country. With this information, we are facilitating improved decision-making for development partners and local government.
The EWB monitoring tool is the most advanced of its kind in the region, and because of this, two water organizations in the region have invested to scale-up the program. When completed, EWB will have mapped and monitored over a third of all water points in Malawi, better identifying the most vulnerable communities in Malawi.
Building operation and maintenance
In villages where the majority of water points are broken, access to spare parts and repair training are needed to restore clean sources of water. To make this a reality, EWB is providing knowledge, training, and research support to our partners to develop and pilot a solution to this problem. We recently worked with InterAide, testing a maintenance approach using bicycle mechanics.
The way forward
EWB’s ambitions are high in Malawi’s water sector - we are aiming to decrease the number of faulty water points from 40% to 10% in the next five years. To do so, indentifying innovative approaches, like water point mapping, while continuing to explore new challenges such as pump repair. We aspire to scale-up responses that are improving widespread access to clean water, like our water point monitoring tool.
With proven impact in many districts like M’mbelwa, EWB is now looking to the future where we envision widespread access to lasting sources of safe water across Malawi.