In an effort to advance health and climate change priorities which has negatively affected the region, Malawi inclusive, the Water and Environmental Sanitation Network (WESNET) will this week Thursday 30th and Friday 31st March provide a platform through which innovations, technologies and proven best practices in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services can widely be shared.

Briefing journalists in Lilongwe WESNET Executive Director Willies Chanozga Mwandira, Pump Aid-Beyond Water Executive Director Symon Msukwa and Ministry of Water and Sanitation Deputy Director of Water and Sanitation Services Engineer Phideria Moyo said the Malawi 2063 Pillar number two (2) and Enabler number five (5) have been used as springboards to achieve WASH Innovation Fair in pursuit of operationalization of pillar and enabler under which the WASH sector belongs.

WESNET Executive Director Willies Chanozga Mwandira says the theme of this year’s WASH Innovation Fair is: ‘Promoting climate resilient and sustainable technologies for improved WASH service delivery in Malawi – moving together with the Malwi2063’. The theme is a call for all stakeholders in WASH sector to promote sustainable and climate resilient technologies for the betterment of Malawians.

“Cyclone Freddy has shown us that we indeed need to do more when it comes to our WASH infrastructure. This Innovation Fair gives us an opportunity to see and appreciate some of the technologies that if given a chance for up scaling, can help Malawi in the near future to withstand disasters like cyclones.

“With the cholera outbreak still amidst us, this Innovation fair also serves as a reminder that Malawi is capable of eliminating this water borne disease if the best practices are indeed followed and if those in the know solutions to the existing problems, disseminate what they know could help us as a nation,” says Mwandira.

Mwandira said the academia will be involved much more this year, to allow students, lecturers and technicians (researchers) from Institutions of Higher Learning to come up with innovative ideas that will contribute to the improvements in WASH service delivery and changing lives of Malawians.

He said on the first day of the Innovation Fair there shall be public lectures from four public universities namely MUBAS, MZUNI, LUANAR and MUST which will be based on various topics on WASH including behavior change and innovation.

Participants of the public lectures will also expected to have the opportunity to discuss various issues in the sector and how best to address some of the challenges currently facing the sector and this will also help in driving policy formulation and change. It will also be a platform to learn what has been achieved in the sector and what more needs to be done for the sector to continue serving its purpose to Malawians.

He said it is very unfortunate that as a country we largely depend on imported technologies in order for us to produce the goods and services yet we know that we have all the potential to innovate and or adapt, and make appropriate technologies that suit our context. This setback, Mwandira says it is negatively affect our productivity and service delivery to the citizens of Malawi.

For the WASH sector, according to the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP 202), Malawi’s WASH service coverage is at 70 percent, 27 percent and 8 percent for water, sanitation and hygiene respectively and such service coverage’s are very low.

“If we are to achieve the SDG 6, it is imperative that we fast-track on these indictors but we cannot fast-truck if we continue to depend on the imported or borrowed technologies,” says Mwandira.

Adding, “Although we are at 27 percent basic coverage on sanitation, access to sanitation is recognized by the United Nations as a human right that entitles everyone to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity”.

In order to meet Sustainable Development Goal number 6 – water and sanitation for all by 2030, the Malawi Government must therefore, take human rights-based approach to improving and expanding service provision to ensure no one is left behind.

On the second day, exhibitions of various technologies and innovations will be done at Gateway Mall car park and a lot of exhibitions from NGO’s, Individuals, Universities, statutory corporations will be displayed where people will appreciate the various technologies that exist and can be scaled up to help in averting the challenges facing WASH sector as a nation continues grappling with effects of climate change.

Collaboratively, this would demonstrate the value of WASH in achievement of SDG number 6.1 and 6.2, while at the same time contribute towards realization of the Malawi 2063.

Pump Aid-Beyond Water Executive Director Symon Msukwa said for the sector to make meaningful towards achieving the SDG and Malawi 2063 there is need to identify technologies and innovations within the sector that can support industrialization.

He said the identified technologies that can demonstrate high positive impact on the livelihoods of people can be linked to the country’s technology hub for further development and popularization.

Msukwa says identification of the technologies and innovations that will fast-track realization of indictors on sanitation and hygiene is vital.

The country is devastated with the aftermath Cyclone Freddy. The extent of damage is unprecedented rendering most infrastructure non-functional and disruption of services and WASH services have not been spared implying that those that were getting water in their homesteads, institutions like schools, hospitals and markets are not able to because the service lines have been washed away.

Ministry of Water and Sanitation Deputy Director Engineer Phideria Moyo says with the aftermath Cyclone Freddy, there are some infrastructure that have proved to be resilient.

She says currently assessments are being undertaken to quantify the extent of the damage. As we will be building back from the cyclone, it is imperative that we take lessons and leverage on the resilient technologies.

With the forgoing; a National Water and Sanitation Fair as a platform for showcasing innovations, resilient technologies and best practices is being organised for quality service delivery through building back better .

“Cyclone Freddy has set the country a step behind in regards to access to water. This fair comes at an opportune time for showcasing technologies and innovations that may be taken on board in the process of reconstruction of damaged infrastructure”, says Engineer Moyo.

In line with the aspiration of the Malawi 2063, investing in the universal WASH could unlock trillions of kwachas in growth over the next two decades and that increasing access to WSH services is not only the right thing to do, but represents sound fiscal investment in the future, catalysing recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic, Cholera and cyclone Freddy as well as building resilience to health, climate and economic shocks in the future.