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Initiative will bring safe water and sanitation to more than 540,000 people in low-income areas of Malawi
The Blantyre Water Board, operated by the government of Malawi, recently selected Water For People to provide technical support for a 31-million-euro initiative funded by the European Union (EU) Water Facility and European Investment Bank (EIB) to bring safe drinking water and improved sanitation to more than 540,000 people in 21 low-income areas of peri-urban Blantyre and Lilongwe, Malawi.
Water For People, a nonprofit international development organization, has supported and implemented sustainable programs in Malawi designed to increase water and sanitation coverage since 2000. The Blantyre Water Board chose Water For People based on its past success in the region and its unique service-based approach to water and sanitation issues. The Denver-based nonprofit will receive more than $1.56 million as the Facilitation Services Provider for the program.
“The Blantyre Water Board is very successful in providing water and sanitation facilities, while Water For People has proven experience in creating and implementing services that can be delivered in a sustainable way,” said Elias Chimulambe, a water, sanitation, and community development specialist at Water For People–Malawi. “The Blantyre Water Board and Water For People will benefit from each other’s expertise.”
Within Lilongwe and Blantyre, approximately 70% of the population lives in unplanned areas. Half of these residents do not have regular access to water supplied by the Blantyre Water Board, and only 13% have access to improved latrines that meet basic government standards. The EU and EIB provided the funds to the Blantyre Water Board to meet its goal of increasing water and sanitation access by 50% within four years beginning Nov.1, 2009.
An important component of Water For People’s plan for long-lasting results is the organization’s concept of “sanitation as a business.” This portion of the plan will build the link between local entrepreneurs and the residents’ need and desire for sanitation services. Over time, sanitation is sustained through financial gain to the local economy, and as demand for services grows, improved sanitation will extend into surrounding areas naturally.
“Our goal is to build the capabilities and resources of the local private sector, local NGOs and the government so that they can continue to provide services in the long term. We want to ensure that they will be in a position to successfully manage these programs when the contract with Water For People is complete,” Chimulambe said. “We will help the Blantyre Water Board to build their own capacity, allowing them to provide and increase services continuously into the future.”
“Water For People is honored that the Blantyre Water Board selected our innovative program model to expand their work in safe water and sanitation access,” said Ned Breslin, Water For People CEO. “Our proposal challenged the common approach of building more latrines and drilling more wells in an unsustainable way.
“Major organizations such as the Blantyre Water Board are interested in leveraging our model, which achieves long-term benefits by rewarding the private sector for providing more services to more people over time,” Breslin said.
The plan will benefit 543,253 people in Blantyre and Lilongwe, Malawi’s two largest cities, but according to Breslin, “once a viable delivery system is created, it can truly scale to reach many more people throughout Malawi. The replication of proven ideas that benefit the private sector and the population alike will literally take on a life of its own.”