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Tapping into the warm heart of Africa

 

A water company CEO has visited Africa to see first-hand how the work of a charity is changing and saving lives

WaterAid is Northumbrian Water Group’s international charity partner and works in 37 countries to provide people with basic human rights – access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.

The charity organised the trip to Malawi, known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’, to give Heidi Mottram and seven other senior executives from other water companies, businesses and trusts, and individuals who support WaterAid, the chance to learn more about how it operates and the incredible impact it has on peoples’ lives.

Two million people in Malawi don’t have access to safe water, ten million don’t have a toilet and 3,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by drinking unsafe water and poor sanitation.

The group visited both urban and rural areas in the south-east African country, which has a population of 17 million people, and spent time with communities that don’t have access to a tap and toilet and where WaterAid has intervened. The contrast in peoples’ lives is stark.

Heidi, who had never been to Africa before, said: "I found it very frustrating that Malawi has a huge amount of water in Lake Malawi and in rivers and yet there are millions of people who can’t access it. It was very difficult to see the suffering caused by something that we take for granted every day in the North East.

"One of my most difficult experiences during the trip was visiting Linyanga Health Centre which is extremely remote, accessed by unmade roads and serves 29,000 people. A very small team of medical staff work in the four or five small rooms. The delivery room had one bed and up to three women can give birth in this room at the same time. The most shocking thing is that, in this day and age, this health centre doesn’t have a water supply. This really reinforced the importance of the incredible work that WaterAid does."

Building and maintaining strong partnerships and having respect and a deep founded knowledge of different cultures are key to WaterAid’s success. The charity empowers individuals and communities by giving them the knowledge, understanding, skills and enthusiasm to become self-sufficient and look after water pumps and latrines themselves.

Reflecting on WaterAid’s partnership approach, Heidi continued: "We visited Bomo Primary School in Kasungu Village. There are 5,000 children in this school, aged six to 16, and they now have one toilet for 166 children as opposed to one for every 300 children. I was very inspired by a teacher I met, called Eness Chilipapa, who runs the WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) club. Mrs Chilipapa truly embodies what WaterAid enables people to do. She is charismatic and makes hygiene education engaging and interesting, which is vital so that the next generation understand the importance of good hygiene.

"We met some incredible people in Malawi who are driven, articulate and intelligent, they were just born in a different place and in different circumstances to us. It was satisfying to see that once WaterAid has intervened people do want to become independent of the charity. Sustainability is at the core of everything the charity does, ensuring people understand why they need access to safe water and sanitation and why hygiene education is so important. I have utmost respect for WaterAid’s approach, their team and their passion to give people basic human rights. I am so proud that Northumbrian Water Group is one of their partners and that we are helping to save lives."

Boyce Nyirenda, who works for WaterAid in Malawi, said: "It was fantastic to host the recent visit from Heidi Mottram of Northumbrian Water Group. The impact of the company’s support across all of WaterAid’s work is tremendous. You are helping many people to access safe, clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and to develop their potential. Thank you for everything that you do!"

To read Heidi’s blog that she wrote while she was in Malawi visit Northumbrian WaterAid’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NorthumbrianWaterAid.

To find out more about WaterAid, or if you would like to volunteer or donate, visit www.wateraid.org. You can also follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress.