24% of Malawi’s healthcare facilities are operating without function water supply

A 2021 global progress report in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in healthcare facilities has shown that 24 percent of the facilities in Malawi are functioning without water supply while 32 percent do not have hand hygiene facilities.

The report, which was done by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), further established that 23 percent of the facilities do not have a usable improved sanitation facility and 38 percent do not properly manage their waste.

This was disclosed on Tuesday at the Hygiene for Health Workshop for Journalists in Lilongwe. WaterAid Malawi conducted the workshop to equip journalists with skills and knowledge on WASH reporting.

Chisi–Journalists should start writing probing stories to trigger progress and improvements in WASH sector–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

In his presentation, WaterAid Malawi Coordinator for Policy and Sector Engagement, Lloyd Mtalimanja, WASH service in Malawi’s public healthcare facilities falls short of WHO standards mostly because of limited appreciation of the economic benefits of WASH, among some actors.

Mtalimanja said more than half of the healthcare facilities in Malawi lack sufficient WASH facilities for patients and guardians.

“Only 20 percent and 40 percent have facilities designated for staff and women, respectively. Only 3.3 percent have improved, usable facilities, designated for women, staff, and meeting needs for limited mobility while 32 percent and 58 percent do not have adequate hand hygiene facilities at points of care & waste management facilities, respectively,” he said.

Mtalimanja observed that lack of dignity for women, through absence of improved sanitation and hygiene facilities in public hospitals, negatively impacts their health-seeking behavior.

He said it is against this background that WaterAid Malawi took steps to address challenges affecting WASH in public healthcare facilities.

He said, with financial support from WaterAid UK, Wimbledon Foundation, UK Government, Scottish Government, Scottish Water, Armani Foundation and GIZ, the organization has delivered improved WASHA facilities to 33 healthcare facilities in the country.

Officials from WaterAid Malawi and journalists pose for a photo after the workshop–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

“We have since secured additional funding from GIZ worth EUR 600,000 to intervene in a further 15 healthcare facilities, which will bring the number to 48 HCFs. We have challenged ourselves to directly intervene in 75 healthcare facilities by 2024 whilst motivating other stakeholders to intervene in another 75, reaching a total of 150 healthcare facilities – The 150 Healthcare Facility Challenge!” said Mtalimanja.

In his presentation delivered virtually, Jonathan Chapman said it is socially unacceptable that medical practitioners should attempt to do their work without such essentials as clean water and sanitation.

Chapman said both patients and healthcare workers risk contracting infections in clinics, which are operating without clean water and sanitation.

WaterAid Malawi Head of Advocacy, Chandiwira Chisi, said an investment in WASH is a sound economic investments as it directly affects many sectors in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Chisi added that improved WASH could greatly reduce the rate of infections to patients and healthcare workers.

He therefore challenged journalists to write probing stories to trigger tangible improvements in the sector.

During the workshop, it was observed that despite being a signatory to a number of international agreements on water, sanitation and hygiene, the sector is not among priority areas in Malawi 2063.

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