There is no doubt that water is life. But the same substance man uses everyday can, in large and uncontrolled measures such as heavy rainfall or flash floods, leave unforgettable scar on one's life.
Floods that displaced thousands of people in Nsanje in January this year left deep scars in scores of lives one of them; 32-year old Mary Robert of Group Village Headman Osiyana.
"I had everything but floods rendered me homeless. My property was destroyed. The government asked us to move upland unfortunately we were just dumped here. Nobody comes to our rescue," she says, adding:
"Imagine there is no water, no school and no health facility. My children don't go to school. We cannot go to the hospital. The nearest is almost 20 kilometers away."
Robert had just arrived from fetching water in another village a venture that takes more than two hours to get a twenty litre pale of water. Thanks to his bicycle, it has reduced the ordeal.
This is not an isolated tale. Thousands of people in Nsanje who moved upland after being affected by floods in the Lower Shire, have many such sad stories.
No wonder, ten months down the line the flood victims have not yet come to terms with their situation. The victims, who answered positively to government's call by migrating to uplands, were bubbling with hope that their condition would be treated as a matter of urgency.
But little did they know their hopes of a better life would be gouged out and turn them into homeless people sentenced to live in manacles of poverty – destitutes in their own country.
Days have turned into ten solid months and the government and its development partners have not lived up to their expectation and the people have to endure a life without potable clean water, accessible road network and shelter, just to name a few.
A visit to Group Village Headman Osiyana established that most of the people are still living in tents and grass sheds.
They were just dumped there. They used to have one borehole that served 1, 627 families. That source of life nourishing water no longer works. Both women and men have to brace long distances to fetch water.
Some villagers decided to go back especially those whose houses survived the tragedy but most of us do not have places of abode.
"We need boreholes, roads, health facilities, school, training centre, government should pay compensation to the owners of the land we are living, electricity, tools to use for irrigation," said Osiyana.
The chief also complained that officials who promised to help them have simply disappeared. No one comes to visit them anymore.
Interestingly, government is aware of how dire, the people it relocated with promises of better life are.
District Commissioner for Nsanje, Rodney Simwaka confirmed that the government has delayed in providing necessities for the people in Group Village Osiyana.
"We know all the challenges the people are facing there. But these kinds of disasters are implemented in phases. The first one is pre-disaster activities where we among others send early warning messages to the people, the second one is rescuing activities and post disaster activities," Simwaka said.
Most donors according to Simwaka avail themselves during the rescue activities, after which they sit back.
"You need to know that as a council we do not get funding for disasters, therefore we are working in an environment where there is no funding for such disasters. But we do submit a proposal to the central government where we get funding to help the victims," he said.
Simwaka said when they started shifting people they had a plan to supply them clean water and provide health services and school.
"We managed to drill a borehole with help from Red Cross. If the borehole is not functioning they are supposed to report so that it should be repaired."
Some of the villages affected are Mbenje and Group Village Headman Kalonga.
Principal Secretary for Disaster Management Jeffrey Kanyinji said his department would contact water and irrigation ministry to see if they can provide water to the area.
"I know the people in that area are facing numerous challenges, but with decentralization, the District Commissioner's office is supposed to assess the situation and submit the report to the ministry.
"What my department does is distribution of relief items, but on the problem of water I can just ask the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development to see if they can help the people," Kanyinji said in a telephone interview.
On permanent structures, Kanyinji expressed the need for development partners and well-wishers to assist.
"At times, the government is squeezed on finances, therefore there is need for development partners and individuals to come in and help the people."
Member of Parliament for the area Frank Viyazyi said he has been discussing the issue with the office of the District Commissioner.
"We had a meeting after the disaster and all sectors in Nsanje assessed the situation and came up with a report. We had representatives from water department, housing, energy and the
report was submitted to the relevant authorities," Viyazyi said.
The MP expected a quick response from the government but up to now there is no response.
According to Viyazyi, water is priority because for the people to mould bricks for development they need water. He, however, thanked Red Cross for drilling the only borehole that is being used now by the people.
"But I am happy that Disaster Management came up with a national committee to look into the problems flood victims are facing. At national level, this committee met to see how best each department can help the victims.
"At that meeting the Office of the President and Cabinet, the Ministry of Water Development and Irrigation, Disaster Management and the World Bank were represented. We are yet to get the report to hear the commitments of the various departments," he said.
Meanwhile, Human Rights activist Undule Mwakasungula has warned against abandoning such people, saying:
"We have not done so well on post disaster solutions as it seems once the disasters are over we tend to relax until another disaster strikes that's when we again wake up. I am aware that we have a strategy on disaster management but that need to be followed and monitored and that need capacity of course. So the issue of capacity in disaster management is so crucial".
Until government and its development partners shake off their post-disaster nap, Robert and her fellow villagers bundled from their homes at the prospects of a safer and better life only to be abandoned in no-man's land, will live to curse the day they left home.