The El Nino continues to have a devastating effect on the developing world. Malawi is one country that is struggling to cope with its effects with nearly 3 million people facing a food shortage. Lack of rains have resulted in crop failure making this year’s harvest – which typically takes place in March and April – almost impossible for thousands of households. About 80 percent of Malawians depend on small-scale farming and the government expects that food insecurity will increase in the coming months.
The food crisis is already exacerbating entrenched problems in Malawi, particularly for young children. The stunting rate for Under 5’s is 42% in Malawi, while the proportion of underweight children is 18% and 6% of children are wasted. According to a recent Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) Malawi report, 10.3 percent of GDP is lost annually to child under-nutrition and 23 percent of all child mortality cases are associated with under-nutrition.
Pump Aid is currently working with pre-schools in Malawi known as Community Based Childcare Centres (CBCCs). These centres cater for children under 5 and there are over 9,000 of them throughout the country. Less than 25% of CBCCs have satisfactory water and sanitation facilities, leaving children exposed to the dangers of diarrhoea and consequential conditions. These centres aim to improve children’s nutrition by providing them with a free meal but they struggle to cope with the demands of this provision.
In order to improve the situation for the children attending CBCCs Pump Aid is working with them to provide clean water, separate child friendly latrines and hygiene promotion education. Working with caregivers and parents Pump Aid is setting up kitchen gardens at each CBCC to provide long term nutritious food for children attending, supporting children at a critical phase in their development. Our work doesn’t stop there, we are also working in communities surrounding the CBCCs, maintaining and reinforcing behaviours that children and caregivers practice when they are at school. The provision of safe water, clean toilets and nutrition will help reduce cases of malnutrition and water borne diseases.
In order to have a broader and sustainable impact Pump Aid is also training up local entrepreneurs to set up businesses offering well digging, pump manufacturing and installation, repair and maintenance and water for irrigation services. It is an approach to increasing access to water and sanitation services, where the individual invests in their own water supply or sanitation facility, made possible by the existence of a network of small ‘WASH entrepreneurs’ providing services appropriate and affordable to markets. The ability to have a water supply close to point of use means that farmers are able to irrigate as and when required – rather than transporting water long distances. Convenience is a major selling point. This, combined with support on improved agriculture techniques (conservation farming) serves to improve growing conditions (soil structure). More importantly, it moves us away from the never ending cycle of aid dependency toward a more sustainable and healthy future.
The approach has proved to be very successful already with 25 entrepreneurs being trained who have gone on to provide improved access to water for over 20,000 people in just under a year.