BLANTYRE--Twenty- five days after a strategy to declare all of Malawi free of open defecation by 2011 was launched, a village in Mangochi that had the worst cases of people out in the open has dug over 50 pit latrines to ensure good sanitation.
Open defecation in Mangochi, Malawi’s premier tourist attraction?
It wasn’t everywhere in Mangochi. It was in Chembe where villagers were using the bush as toilets. The National Statistics Office says over 20 percent of the residents in Mangochi didn’t have access to basic sanitation.
For a very long time, open defecation was the order of the day until early in December 7, 2011 when Malawi launched an open defecation free Malawi strategy with the slogan ‘stop open defecation’
Christina Tembwe, a farmer from Chembe village, said it was convenient to not to construct toilets and relieve themselves in the bush.
“But with the launch of the free open defecation the people have been inspired to dug pit latrines. Our chief has taken it upon himself to ensure that everyone has a pit latrine,” she said.
Mangochi wasn’t alone in having people rushing to the bush to answer the call of nature. Mzimba, the biggest district in northern Malawi, is equally guilty. Whereas other districts have depleted their natural tree cover through charcoal burning and other environmentally degrading activities, Mzimba has done well to preserve its natural forests.
The people also went ahead and preserved their not-so-healthy practice of defecating in the bush.
The National Statistics Office says 16 per cent of Mzimba’s residents don’t have access to basic sanitation.
For years, open defecation was the norm until 2008 when UNICEF intervened. A Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme was launched following a survey to ascertain the number of people with access to basic sanitation. Through CLTS, 65,000 people now have access and most communities have abandoned their old habits.
In the past toilets came with prescribed sanitation platforms. Communities are now encouraged to design their own latrines as long as they are safe and covered. The new social norms created by CLTS also entail that every home has its own latrine close to the house and the use of the bush for defecation is frowned upon.
“It took us sometime to accept that using the bush isn’t a good option. But now we are accustomed to using toilets,” says Tiwine Ngoma, a resident of Kaishani Village in Mzimba.
Ngoma says her husband, Donald Ngulube, with whom she has four children, constructed the toilet for the family.
“We live comfortably knowing that when nature calls we will not be worried with where to relieve ourselves. Previously, we used to walk to the bushes at night [which was risky],” says Teleza, Ngulube’s second wife with whom he has four children.
One could be beaten by poisonous snakes or other animals while defecating in the bush. It’s also a health hazard.
“The occurrence of diarrhea diseases here was no news. As well as the lack of hand-washing, the outbreaks were caused by the faucal matter being washed away by rain into our water wells,” says Teleza.
Secretary for Irrigation and Water development Sandramu Maweru said in a statement that the implementation of ODF Malawi Strategy although a huge task is still achievable with a comprehensive collaboration, coordination and support by all.
“Implementation of ODF is expected to assist government to eradicate open defecation and increase access to sanitation and promote the use of safe hygiene practices which are key to the prevention [of] diarrhea and cholera incidences,” he said.
Health experts say incidences of diarrhea pose significant health risks for the rural population and accounts for 18 percent of deaths each year in children under the age of five.
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment