Here is a real gift with a real impact. In Malawi, poor access to clean water is a real problem for many children. They are often the ones tasked with water collection, which can be long and difficult, leaving them less time for school. Moreover, the water collected is not always safe for drinking. To help with this major problem, UNICEF has installed dozens of water pumps in the Karonga District of Northern Malawi.
Before water pumps were installed in the small fishing village of Kayuni, inhabitants were forced to get their water from Lake Malawi. Upstream, however, the lake is used as a public toilet by local communities and a watering point where livestock drink daily.
"The water was unsafe for drinking. People and animals would use the lake as a toilet. Villagers also did their laundry there. We knew the water was dangerous, but we had no other choice. It's not surprising that there were numerous cases of cholera in our village," says Tiwonge Zimba, mother of 5.
To find clean water, villagers kept going farther out onto the lake, using small, makeshift boats. That's what Tiwonge's children had to do.
"I nearly lost my son when he ventured out to the middle of the lake to get water. His small raft sank under the weight of the filled containers. Luckily, fishermen were there to save him."
Some were less fortunate. Fonesi Msowoya lives in Lupembe, a village north of Lake Malawi.
"I lost my 8-year-old daughter when she went to get water. She had finished her chore and was taking a little dip when a crocodile got her. When we didn't see her coming home, we immediately went out looking for her, but it was too late. We found her mangled body on the bank."
UNICEF and its partners recently installed a water pump in the villages of Fonesi and Tiwonge. They no longer fear the waterborne diseases that made their children ill and no longer dread having to watch them go out on the lake for water.
Being healthier and having more time also means the children will be able to attend school much more regularly.
Lucy Mkandawire also lives in the village of Kayuni. Before the water pump was installed, she could not find clean water for drinking and cooking. She was always afraid for her children's health.
"I only have girls, and they couldn't go out far enough onto the lake to fetch uncontaminated water. Now that I no longer have to use dirty water for drinking and cooking, I can finally breathe easy. We can also see a sharp decrease in school absenteeism."
Thanks to your support, UNICEF has given nearly 500,000 children and their families access to safe drinking water in these past 6 years. We have also supported communities with the construction of latrines and sanitary facilities.
Joseph Scott is UNICEF's communications specialist in Malawi.
Survival Gifts are actual life-saving and life-changing supplies that are distributed around the world to the children who are most in need. For other Survival Gifts ideas, visit shop.unicef.ca.