CAMA raises serious concerns on unhealthy supply of tap water amidst cholera outbreak

* Water from these Water Boards often comes muddy with a lot of impurities and not suitable for human consumption

* The worst poorest quality water supplies are from Water Boards of Blantyre (80%), Lilongwe (72%) and Central Region (55%)

* As of Friday, October 7, a total of 23 districts have reported cases of cholera since first case in March in Machinga

* A total of 74 new cases were reported with new two deaths — one each in Blantyre and Nkhotakota

By Duncan Mlanjira

Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) has raised red flags that Water Boards of Blantyre, the Central Region and the Capital City Lilongwe are supplying poor quality water, and this should be treated as very serious in the wake of cholera outbreaks in the country.


In a statement, CAMA Executive Director, John Kapito reveals that water from the these Water Boards “often comes muddy with a lot of impurities and not suitable for human consumption”.

“The worst poorest quality water supplies are from Blantyre Water Board (80%), Lilongwe Water Board (72%) and Central Region Water Board (55%) while Northern and South Region have the lowest complaints.

“Consumers have overtime complained regarding the unhygienic poor quality supply of water and it has shown that the Water Boards’ failure to supply quality portable water is either they lack knowledge and difference between good and poor water quality or they lack capacity to delivery good quality portable water.”

Kapito observed that it was incredulous that the water boards “continuously and consistently supply poor and unhygienic water” and appealed to the Ministries of Water and Health “to continuously monitor the quality of water especially now when the country is fighting to contain cholera outbreaks”.

“Our Water Boards are another source of cholera and various water borne diseases and the water quality from our Water Boards must not be trusted,” Kapito said while appealing to consumers to boil water from before use.

“It’s unfortunate that after the Public Sector Reforms, consumers were expecting to see an improvement in the supply of water. Unfortunately, consumers are paying high water tariffs that is substandard and not suitable for human consumption the questions that we must be asking is what is wrong with our Water Boards?


“CAMA wishes to encourage and thank Northern and Southern Region Water Boards to continue improving the quality of their water for the good health and economic status of consumers.”

As of Friday, October 7, a total of 23 districts have reported cases of cholera since confirmation of first case in March in Machinga and that a total of 74 new cases were reported with new two deaths — one each in Blantyre and Nkhotakota.

Of the 74 new cases, the highest was in Nkhotakota at 15 and 14 each in Rumphi and Karonga; 12 in Nkhata Bay; 7 in Blantyre; 4 in Balaka; 3 in Neno; and one each in Ntchisi, Likoma, and Mzimba North.

Friday’s cholera situation report from the Ministry of Health, says the outbreak has been controlled in six districts while in the last 14 days, the disease has been reported in 17 districts of Blantyre, Nkhata Bay, Chikwawa, Nkhotakota, Rumphi, Mzimba North, Zomba, Mwanza, Karonga, Nsanje, Ntcheu, Likoma, Neno, Chiradzulu, Mangochi, and Ntchisi.

The cumulative confirmed cases since the onset of out break is at 4,107 with 116 as related deaths at case fatality rate of 2.8%. A total of 3,877 people have recovered while 114 are currently in treatment centres.

Of the 19 affected districts, Nkhata Bay has most cases at 890 cases and 23 deaths; followed by Blantyre (618 cases, 25 deaths); Rumphi (591 cases, 10 deaths); Nkhotakota (460 cases, 16 deaths); Mzimba North (395 cases, 1 death); Karonga (352 cases, 4 deaths); and Neno (114 cases, 3 deaths).

Measures so far done by the Ministry include:

* Setting up of treatment centres in all affected areas so that patients do not travel long distances for treatment. Cholera treatment near the affected areas and supply of medicines;

* Pot to pot chlorination of water in the communities where there is no safe water. The Ministry of Water is also in the process of putting safe water sources in the communities;

* Administration of oral cholera vaccinations (OCV);

Contact tracing of cholera cases;

Engagements with local leaders to facilitate latrine and use, including general sanitation and hygiene issues; and

Community sensitization on prevention and control of cholera being done in all districts of the country.


In the situation report, Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chaponda reminds the general public that cholera is a preventable and treatable disease and emphasized that drinking safe water is paramount as well as proper use of latrines; washing hands with soap after visiting the toilet and before handling food; using safe & treated water all the time and practising food hygiene.

“The Ministry of Health is working together with Ministry of Water to make sure all people have safe water all the time,” she assured, while indicating that she is also working with CHAM facilities in providing cholera treatment and prevention services free of charge.

She also implored on the public that they should report to the hospital early “if they develop diarrhea or if they are suffering from any other disease”.

Meanwhile, Evidence Action, an organization which scales evidence-based and cost-effective programmes to reduce the burden of poverty, has launched a safe water program in Blantyre district to address challenges of water borne diseases, including cholera.

Health Minister Chiponda launching the programme

The programme has installed chlorine dispensers at several water points in Blantyre and other neighboring districts of Chiradzulu, Neno, Mwanza, Balaka, Mangochi and Machinga.

During the launch on Wednesday at Mdeka in Blantyre — graced by Health Minister Chiponda herself — Evidence Action’s Board chairperson, Anne Phoya told Malawi News Agency (MANA) that they aim at installing 15,799 dispensers at rural water points which would enable access to safe water to approximately 2.7 million people in eight districts.

This is approximately 15% of the population of Malawi and 35% of the Southern Region from the programme that started in Zomba in 2013, and as of to date, Evidence Action has installed 3,799 dispensers at rural water points.

In her remarks, Health Minister Chiponda urged community members to take care of the dispensers to ensure continued access to safe water, which will also ensure a disease-free community.