VOLUME 22 #2

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Clean water, healthier lives in Malawi

Senior Alex Lauderback in a Malawi village
Senior Alex Lauderback in a Malawi village

In the Sakata region of Malawi, in southeast Africa, women and girls from five villages walk three hours or more one way to reach a lake. There, they fill buckets with water and journey back to their homes, hoping the precious resource will sustain their communities for another day.

When those involved in the UD student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-UD) heard about this problem, they decided to get involved, and in June, three students traveled to Malawi to conduct preliminary research for a potable water project. They were accompanied by engineer and mentor Samantha Battle and by Gretchen Bauer, UD professor of political science and international relations.

Nearly half the villages’ population is younger than 15, and the majority of residents endure waterborne illness and other health consequences such as high infant mortality rates. The project goal is to improve the quality of life by reducing the prevalence of waterborne illness, leading to increased productivity and school attendance.

“Water is a basic need that we take for granted,” says Samantha Meehan, a UD chemical engineering student and Malawi project manager. “So the fact that another country is asking us to help provide them with potable water that is easily accessible really makes their needs stand out.”

During the first visit, the team built relationships with community leaders and residents, conducted health surveys and gathered baseline data on water quality. More data will be collected during the rainy season in January, when waterborne disease rates are higher.

“EWB-UD had a flawless trip to the Sakata region of southern Malawi,” Bauer says. “I believe that most, if not all, of the goals of this first assessment trip were accomplished, and the team now has a very good idea of what more needs to be done during a second assessment trip in January.”

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