Flying a drone in Nsanje: my first emergency deployment

One of the first things I learnt about Malawi right after arriving in this beautiful country was that it prone to floods and drought. In the first week of March, heavy rains fell across much of the country. It was bad enough where I live in Lilongwe, in the central region, but then reports started coming in from the south, saying that vast areas along the Shire river had been flooded, leaving thousands of people without a home.

Life in the community

Rural and semi-urban areas tend to be disadvantaged when compared to their urban counterparts. Poor sanitation, poor hygiene, school dropout rates, and poverty in general, are greater. A 2003 study, Urban-Rural Inequality in Living Standards in Africa, found that living standards in rural communities lag behind urban communities. The study found many more boys go to school than girls. Unfortunately, young girls are married off or remain at home to perform on household chores.

Tracking the source of cholera

The day began as usual. I woke up at 6:30 am to get ready for work. An hour or so later, I arrived in Area 24 to join my colleagues, and try to stop the spread of cholera in the area.

Area 24 is a crowded township located on the boundary between Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe, and the surrounding rural district.

Our task for the day was simple: to locate, photograph and mark on a Google map all the nearby sanitation and hygiene facilities including toilets, water points and dumpsites.

Drones vs mosquitos: using high and low-tech to fight malaria

In the middle of a muddy field next to a reservoir in Kasungu District, a team of scientists are hard at work. Boxes of equipment lie scattered around a patch of dry ground, where Lancaster University’s Michelle Stanton programmes an automated drone flight into a laptop perched on a metal box. With a high-pitched whirr of rotor blades, the drone takes off and starts following the shoreline, taking photos as it goes.