An Assessment of the Quality of Water Services in Low-income areas of Malawi- A case study of Mtandile-Mtsiliza in the City of Lilongwe, Malawi.
Phiri, Lazarus Botomani
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Water supply utilities in Africa are finding it increasingly difficult to provide adequate services to the needy areas: their core business operations are often stagnant, compounded by an increase in peri-urban and poor settlements. Studies have revealed that by 2015, urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa will have progressed from about 3.2% to about 5.2% in a year. There are 16 low-income areas in Lilongwe city in Malawi and these low income areas are home to almost 70% of the population of Lilongwe City which is estimated at 450,000. Drinking water in these areas is provided by Lilongwe Water Board through communal kiosks. This study therefore aimed at determining the quality of water services in one of the low income areas of Mtandile-Mtsiliza in Lilongwe. The study also investigated willingness and ability of the communities in these low-income areas to pay for current and improved water services and also to investigate if service quality influences their decision on willingness to pay for improved water services. Questionnaires, focus group discussions, interviews with key personnel and field observations were the main study tools used to collect data. The indicators of quality of service considered were reliability, accessibility, sufficiency of water quantity, customer perceptions to service quality and affordability of the water services. The results show that compared to internationally accepted standards, the indicators of service quality are met to varying degrees. It was found out that compared to international standards, the service was unreliable with 88.7% of the respondents getting water for no more than 6 hours while the internationally accepted standard is 24hrs. The average walking distance to a water point was found to be 682m as opposed to the generally accepted 200m. On average consumers in the area can afford paying for water as they water costs take only 3.4% of their monthly income which is below the threshold of 5% which is recommended by WHO and the World Bank. It was also found out that consumers are willing to pay more for improved services than for current services. The mean amount that the consumers were willing to pay for current service was found to be MK232.76. On average the consumers were also willing to pay MK374.14 for improved services and were willing to pay MK1, 864.66 for connection fees. The study also found out that households’ decision on willingness to pay for improved was influenced by their perception to the current service. It was concluded that compared to internationally accepted standards, the quality of service in Mtandile-Mtsiliza is low with the consumers also perceiving the service to be low. It was also concluded from the study that willingness to pay is influenced by the perceived service quality with the under-served willing to pay more for improved services compared to the current service. It is recommended that to improve the quality of service and hence consumer perception to service, the utility company should maintain all broken down kiosks and also reduce, subsidise or allow payment in instalments of the connection fee to enable consumers have individual connections.
SubjectWater services in the urban poor
Quantity of water versus distance.
Strategies for serving the urban poor
Affordability and ability to pay.