Spreading Influence: The Progression of Water Sanitation in Malawi

The Progression of Water Sanitation in MalawiWater sanitation in Malawi is improving a great deal, but unfortunately not enough to sustain the growth of the population. In Malawi, it is estimated that 2.4 million people lack safe water and roughly 47 percent of the population must travel 30 minutes or more to obtain clean water. Malawi possesses access to water, though, and is rich in sources such as: large lakes, rivers and aquifers. However, there are critical factors that make these large water sources dangerous to consume.

Water Contaminants

While water may be abundant, the natural resource is not free of dangerous microorganisms or industrial and organic contaminants. For example, Cholera is one of the most dangerous and life-threatening microorganisms found in water sources of Malawi and many other countries.

These water sources are also compromised by fluctuation in rainfall that has decreased over the years. In fact, studies have shown that only about six percent of the population has access to proper water sanitation in Malawi.

Pump Aid

Pump Aid is an organization that works toward changing water sanitation in Malawi, and numerous other African countries, by working with local authorities to install elephant pump technology. Pump Aid was established in 1998, and has since delivered over 4,230 pumps to improve water sanitation in Malawi. Pump Aid has been successful in improving the quality of water all over Africa.

Elephant pumps are made from concrete casting and supply clean water through a rope and washer system. As the pump handle turns, the water is drawn up by plastic washers secured to a rope. The elephant pump then lifts water from up to 50 meters deep and can produce one liter of water every second. These pumps are designed to be easily maintained by the local villages.

Spreading Influence

Pump Aid tested the first elephant pump in Zimbabwe and has since installed many more throughout Africa. Pump Aid manually digs the wells of the water sources, and never uses machinery to install the pumps for sustainability purposes. The manual labor creates jobs while also training villagers how to mechanically maintain the pump. Also, using machinery would dramatically increase the cost of the installation, and the harsh landscape will not always allow access for large machinery.

Pump Aid has had great influence over water sanitation in Malawi, and plans to continue making a difference all over Africa. The organization has found a cost-effective way to improve the water sanitation in Malawi and reduce infant death dramatically. The clean, electrolyte rich water has decreased water borne illness and allowed for food crop growth. Therefore, improving the water sanitation in Malawi has also improved the nutritional status of many children.

In addition to lowering deaths, Pump Aid has also provided jobs via the installation of water pumps. These tools provide economic growth, and Pump Aid plans to continue these improvements into the future.

– Kristen Hibbett
Photo: Flickr