Access to portable clean water and sanitary facilities remains a challenge for people of Karonga district.
The development poses a threat to people’s health as the likelihood of continued cholera outbreaks remains high.
Karonga is one of the 13 districts in Malawi that were hit by cholera for about six months from November 2017.
The district registered 347 cholera cases and seven deaths were recorded.
Statistics indicate that Lilongwe surpassed Karonga with 385 cases and 18 deaths from the disease.
According to the District Environmental Health Officer, about 20% of people in the Karonga have no access to portable clean water while 30% have no access to sanitary facilities such as pit latrines. Lack thereof, being some of the contributing factors to the spread of cholera.
Luis Tukula said the inaccessibility to safe water and sanitary facilities is not particularly confined to a particular geographical area but the problem is relatively prominent in areas along Lake Malawi.
“And these areas without access to safe water and sanitary facilities were among those severely hit by cholera outbreak that recently affected the district,” Tukula told Capital FM.
“One of the reasons is sandy soils. It is impossible to drill boreholes in sandy soils, the other reason is accessibility, borehole drilling machines cannot be taken to other areas because they are impassable,” he said.
He added, “Similar to latrines, some communities, especially along the lake, it's partly due to sandy soils. Latrines easily collapse during rainy season; the other reason is perennial floods which wash away pit latrines.”
Apart from inaccessibility to portable water and sanitary facilities, the district is also facing negative behaviour from community members, as some communities despite having access are not making use of the access they have, a behaviour Tukula said they are working on changing.
“There is negative behaviour with other people preferring lake water even if they have access to safe water, claiming lake water is more palatable, the same applies to use of pit latrines.”
“But slowly things are changing. People are being transformed, behaviour wise through Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) we are currently implementing across the district,” he said.
“Like in the case of latrines, currently no Traditional Authority has been declared ODF. However, all villages have so far been triggered and follow-ups are in progress, sporadic villages have achieved ODF status so far but our target is Traditional Authority level,” said the District Environmental Officer.
At least 10 people with goitre have been operated on from goitre in the northern region districts of Karonga and Chitipa.
While 17 others have been treated from fractures, tumours and other emergency surgical cases by a Germany-based health institution known as Interplast in a period of 14 days.
The 27 Malawians, most of whom are from poor backgrounds are now able to breathe a sigh of relief after going through a successful, free treatment of their problems.
According to a goitre specialist at Interplast, Dr Wagner Wagner, the 14 days of free service delivery in Chitipa district have been very fruitful as many people with the problem showed up for treatment.
The doctor expressed optimism that when they come back again for the services in October this year, many more people will show up.
Wagner went on to denounce the misconception that services are only meant for the rich emphasising that the services are offered to both the rich and poor free of charge.
Speaking to Capital FM, Wagner said he realises the fact that Malawi, being one of the developing nations in southern Africa, the country has little or no expertise in the field of goitre operations.
This he adds makes it very challenging for the common Malawians in these two districts of Karonga and Chitipa to travel to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre for treatment.
“We know that there are few surgeons in this field in Malawi and this is a very costly to many poor Malawians to travel long way to Blantyre with their guardians for the treatment so it is very easy to give them treatment right in their districts at the district hospital,” explained Wagner.
According to the health desk officer at Karonga diocese of the Catholic Church, Vincent Shaba, the leadership of the diocese decided to invite the foreign doctors complement the work of the few doctors that are in Malawian hospitals.
“Looking at the shortage of expertise who can provide services to people with goitre and bone fractures and other related problems in public hospitals, the Bishop of the Karonga diocese, Martin Anwel Mtumbuka decided to invite medical personnel from Interplast to help ease the problem,” Shaba said.
Goitre is a swelling of the neck resulting from enlargement of the thyroid gland.
Cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) are said to be declining in some parts of Karonga district in Malawi.
The decline has been registered mainly in Lupembe in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kyungu where there are 20 community based organisations working with the Justice and Peace of the Karonga diocese of the Catholic Church.
Monitoring And Evaluation Officer at the Karonga diocese, Deodatus Muriya who is also assisting in the Primary Justice Project (PJP) disclosed that the decline in GBV in the district is due to the existing mutual relationship with the CBOs that help educate people in various communities on the dangers of the vice.
“Basing on the records we have from the district social welfare office, it shows that with this intervention, different forms of abuse done against each other in different places.
Be it in families or in work places have been tremendously reduced which is a clear indication that the CBOs are really helping us intensifying awareness campaign though I cannot immediately disclose the exact statistics on the degree of its decline,” explained Muriya.
In an earlier interview with Capital FM on the matter with the Karonga magistrates’ court, first grade magistrate Chakaka Nyirenda said the introduction of the Primary Justice project; the courts have been highly relieved of their tasks because all misdemeanor cases are heard at communal level by traditional courts such that the law courts are now concentrating much on felonies except when they fail to come up with a consensus.
Similarly, the Karonga District Social Welfare Officer, Atupele Mwalweni had warned against the act arguing that it derails socio-economic and human developments in the communities since in most cases women are denied opportunities to take part in decision-making processes.
Mwalweni said, “Any gender related violence is a serious offence which attracts a stiffer penalty based on the statute of the republic of Malawi where in some cases the offender may be asked to pay millions of kwacha or in default serve a minimum of five years jail term.”
In his remarks, Karonga District Commissioner, Richard Hara advised community members to consider taking their minor grievances to traditional courts to access quick primary justice rather than resorting to go to the magistrates’ courts in order to save their time for development works.
Being an overseer of the district, Hara concurred with Nyirenda that indeed workload has been reduced in conventional courts in the district because most of the minor cases are now heard at communal level.
However, one of the volunteers, Mercy Ndovie said they are trying their level best to combat the act by they are restricted by their local leaders who have negative attitude towards volunteers in various CBOs thereby disregarding the case record books for their reference when passing their verdicts.
Funded by the Department For International Development (DFID), Muriya added that the project is just a pilot phase which started on first December, 2017 is expected to complete in December 2018 with the aim of promoting peace and order in families and work places.
The Station Executive Committee (SEC) of the Malawi Police Service (MPS) has intensified security in Karonga district ahead of the 2019 tripartite elections.
To achieve this, police in the district have distributed 35 brand new bicycles to community policing members in 35 group village heads across Karonga to ease mobility challenges when executing their tasks.
Speaking to Capital FM after the symbolic presentation of the push bikes in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kalonga in the district, the Deputy Commissioner of police and Officer In charge of Karonga police, Brenant Chitanda said he is optimistic that the bikes will go a long way in curbing crime in the district be it misdemeanor or felony.
“When it comes to community policing, these members come from distant places so they need to ride these bikes to be able to reach us with information in good time.
In fact Karonga is well known with violence mainly incited by politicians and we have already talked to some of them that they should promote exercise good politics to avoid such crimes,” Chitanda said.
Chairperson of the SEC, Mungasulwa Mwambande concurred with Chitanda on the importance of the bikes to this department adding that although they are insufficient; they will still assist in reducing crimes in the district.
Mwambande then pleaded with the recipients to use the bikes for their intended purpose to make Karonga a crime free district.
“The bicycles you have received are not meant to be used for your own personal gains but to serve the people therefore take good care of them and do not use them as bicycle taxis,” he added.
One of the beneficiaries, Boyson Mweniyumba said that the bikes are not for personal benefit but the public therefore a beneficiary found misusing them will be taken to task.
A Karonga resident hopes to help reduce unemployment challenges in the district, following his establishment of a tourist attraction site along the shores of Lake Malawi.
According to Willy Kachaka Mwafongo, the newly established Kilombero Beach Resort will not only reduce the unemployment rate among young people in the country but also promote tourism.
He adds that, Karonga being border district deserves such facilities to attract tourists into Malawi thereby improve the economy.
“We chose to name the resort Kilombero because the well known Kilombero rice comes from here and it is one of the things that the district prides itself for.”
Mwafongo further explained that the history of Malawi reveals that Karonga is one of the first places where the African Lakes Cooperation also called Mandala missionaries (the Moi Brothers) settled and opened shop along the place for economic purposes.
“Malawi government has put tourism as one of the key priorities so we want to contribute to that, regarding the Buy-Malawi Strategy and help Malawians patronising to that.
We have already partnered with Miracle Hotel and Management Training Centre which is here in Karonga who have provided us four young trainees to share us their hotel management skills as interns,” Mwafongo explained.
In addition to that they are hoping to put together a beach soccer team to compete at national level.