As part of a government approach to water poverty in Malawi, The capital's water council has launched a series of automatic kiosks that sell drinking water to citizens via a smart card without workers, crowded queues or long waiting hours.
The African continent is the richest in terms of resources, However, their people suffer from hunger because they are too poor in the most important resource. It is fresh water, This has become a collective challenge that imposes the need for knowledge, innovation and cooperation between different African countries.
In the Malawian capital, for example, Living standards are uneven and mass migration is growing due to the consequences of climate change. In peri-urban areas where one-third of Malays live, Many homes lack running water, Therefore, residents of these areas frequent special stalls that sell them clean water. In return for amounts paid to the worker who manages the sale within a specified period not exceeding 6 hours per day in two periods, Morning and evening.
Naturally, This led to congestion that became even more dangerous with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. What made the scene more complicated, It is the difficulty of adhering to preventive hygiene measures. Although one US dollar is enough to buy more than 800 litres of drinking water, However, the price of one liter - equivalent to one kwacha (local currency) - along with the difficulty of obtaining it and the corruption of those responsible for distributing it sometimes, All of them make following the instructions for continuous handwashing a real challenge for people in these environments.
In the face of these fears, The Lilongwe Water Council has leveraged government support and additional funding from the World Bank and several others to expand the response to the pandemic. He collaborated with multinational GSMA to launch the water and sanitation program. Among them is the E-Madzi project, which means "water electronically".
The executive team installs modern kiosks that operate according to fully automated systems, Allows residents to access water at any time, And provide it via electronic card. To operate these kiosks, The Council has developed a process management system, It is loaded into the distribution unit and remains connected to an electronic device.
Through radio wave identification, Users click a special button and select the required quantity so that the unit starts filling water automatically, Once completed, The system deducts the filled quantity from the balance of the prepaid smart card. These cards have been integrated into cash payment platforms that citizens can easily download to their mobile phones. It allows them to pay for water for their older family members or unfamiliar with modern technologies.
To monitor the performance of these kiosks, All of them are connected to a server that collects their data and transmits it directly to the executive team of the Water Council, whose members manage the work around the clock relying on an easy-to-use, internet-connected dashboard.
The project had seen a timid start with 4 kiosks, But the outbreak of the Corona virus forced the authorities to immediately start setting up another hundred kiosks in different locations in the capital at a cost of only $ 42,000 per kiosk. All of them will be concentrated in the most crowded and needy areas, Such as locations near schools, health and traffic facilities or assembly points, The initiative will also expand further to the rest of Malawian cities. And from there to other African countries.
The project included the deployment of special handwashing points in public places, In addition to working to promote personal hygiene practices, By launching awareness campaigns and training teams to help residents adopt the habit of handwashing. Part of the funding has also been allocated to provide protective equipment for frontline crews.
It should be noted that the Government of Malawi has paid great attention to the issue of water and hygiene since the turn of the millennium. It has made remarkable progress and leadership in this field despite being one of the smallest and least developed African countries. But this was not the result of the first attempt, The Malawi authorities have already experimented with regulating water distributions via mobile applications. But this did not achieve the desired results.
It may be obvious that such a high-tech project faces some challenges before semi-urban and rural communities are familiar with it and are good at dealing with it. The Water Board recognized this early, He provided training to the local population, However, it is still too early to judge the effectiveness of these exercises in bringing this technique closer to the target group. So, Future sustainability remains the biggest challenge.
The second challenge, It is represented by the loss of many of their sources of income, Technology has eliminated the need for kiosk workers, This should be taken into account when developing the final evaluation of the project.
For now This technology has facilitated access to water for nearly 9,000 people in vulnerable neighborhoods. Approximately 65% of the costs were reduced after dispensing with the supervising worker and reducing the amount of waste, It also reduced friction, cash handling and congestion, which contributed to reducing the spread of infection. More importantly, It is to reduce water waste during the traditional process, Move the most vulnerable communities to a safer water reality.