Improving the lives of
slum dwellers in Malawi

With support from Comic Relief this project will encourage local social entrepreneurship in Malawi by creating a sustainable commercial market for household water treatment, safe storage products and waste management.


In the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre more than one million people (around 70% of their populations) live in informal settlements (slums), a figure that is set to double in the next ten years. But City Councils lack the resources to provide essential services such as safe water, effective sanitation and waste collection forcing people to look for alternatives. The use of unsafe water, open defecation and illegal dumping of waste are common; leading to high rates of water-borne disease, malnutrition and increasing infant mortality.


The City Councils’ inability to invest in informal settlements will not change any time soon, they have neither the funds nor often the political will. But research carried out by Pump Aid demonstrates an ability and a willingness among people living in informal settlements to pay for safe water, hygienic sanitation and waste collection, overturning the myth that poor people are unable or unwilling to engage with services offered by the private sector.


Though almost three-quarters of the Malawian population live below the international poverty line, the residents of the informal settlements in and around Lilongwe and Blantyre are comparatively better off than those living in rural areas. Taken together with a lack of publicly funded infrastructure this means there is great demand for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) services and an ability to pay for them.


  • Largest city in Malawi, became its capital and administrative centre in 1975
  • 76% of the city’s population live in informal settlements
  • High urbanisation rate but lacks the necessary financial resources to provide the infrastructure and urban services needed for economic development
  • Poverty rate is 25%
  • Unemployment rate is 16%


  • Oldest urban centre in Malawi, established in the 1870s
  • Centre for much of Malawi’s commercial activities but lacks the resources to provide the basic social infrastructure required
  • Over 65% of the city’s population live in informal settlements, which occupy about 23% of its land
  • Poverty rate is 24%
  • Unemployment rate is 8%


Over the life time of this project local entrepreneurs will have the skills and knowledge to give people living in urban slums access to water, hygienic toilets and improved waste collections. By working with local partners and with the support from Comic Relief Pump Aid will help support local businesses through training in marketing, business skills and promote the knowledge of health and hygiene to benefit the wider community and encourage long term sustainability.


  • Reach an estimated 125,000 people with safe water and improved sanitation
  • Provide an estimated 60 people with the skills needed to run a business effectively
  • Create market opportunities for at least 20 social entrepreneurs
  • Create 54 jobs for waste pickers
  • Establish 29 small businesses, giving them training and marketing support
  • Forge city wide contracts to regulate waste collection and support local businesses to grow