We have a new blogger, Aninda Sen, a master of public health student working with the UNC Water Institute and World Vision in Malawi and Kenya this summer! He’s checking in from Malawi!

As I have discovered first hand, this country is fully deserved of that title, as you cannot walk down the streets for 5 mins without someone waving to you while shouting “Hello” or as they say it here “Muli bwanji”. The country is beautiful, and its people are warm and welcoming to all, and in recent times, there has been great leadership shown in access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. And this is where I will be working for the first half of this summer.

Wanted to throw a picture in there. That’s me (right) and my friend Natsumi (left) at Sandram, Lilongwe. She is another one of the interns from UNC working on this project.

That’s me (right) and my friend, Natsumi (left), at Sandram, Lilongwe. She is another one of the interns from UNC working on this project.

I am currently in Malawi working on my summer practicum with 2 other students on a project which is part of the long-standing successful partnership between the UNC Water Institute and World Vision Malawi. As part of the assessment team working on the functionality of solar powered water pumps in rural Malawi, I am collecting data in order to understand the sustainability and effectiveness of solar pumps, as well as testing water samples from various water points in order to determine the safety standards and any health risks involved to those who depend on this water for their daily activities. My work also involves gauging the impact of the improved access to safe water on the economic development of these rural communities. The vast majority of my data is collected through the use of electronic surveys and interviews with the local people and water committee members living in the villages served by solar pumps. This has allowed me work with the team trying to understand the future potential of such large-scale projects in areas where water has traditionally been difficult to come by. It has also given me the opportunity to interact with the people who are directly being affected by these water systems. And to be honest, that is the most rewarding part of my work. Everyone I come across in these small communities has such useful information to provide when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of the water pumps. Coming from a developing country myself, where electricity is not always available throughout the year, this has allowed me to begin exploring the possibilities provided by clean, sustainable energy sources such as solar power. Also, the villagers cook a mean pot of psima with “mileage” chicken, so that’s a bonus that accompanies all the traveling.

The work often takes me off the beaten path, to some hard to reach communities, and that is my opportunity to get to explore the country a bit more closely. I am a trigger-happy cameraman, which means all the travel has exposed me to some dramatic scenery and breath-taking African sunsets. I am only 4 weeks into my work, and I feel like time is flying by way too fast for me to take all of this in. We have been to the villages of Langa and Sandram, and every community offers the opportunity to learn something new about the WASH system, and how it is being managed for a bright and sustainable future.

Our team of interns recently went to Lake Malawi for the weekend to take a small break from all the field work, and it was one of the best holiday destinations I have ever been to. Beautiful scenery, amazing beaches and crystal-clear water, to go with the amazing food.

Sunset upon Lake Malawi.

Sunset upon Lake Malawi.

The time I have spent so far in Malawi has been very helpful in helping me become a more well informed public health practitioner. I cannot wait to see what the next few weeks have in store for me. I will be sure to keep you all updated. Till then, have a nice day, or as they say here “Mukhale ndi tsiku labwino”.

-Aninda