Malawi government should institute a stand-alone Ministry for water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) to ensure requisite sector leadership, institutional capacity and the proper allocation of finances to the WaSH programmes.
This is contained in a petition that water and environmental sanitation (WES) network presented to Parliament on Friday in which it implores on government to increase financing to WaSH programmes to ensure that all people in the country have better WaSH services.
WES Network feels that the WaSH sector has not been given the kind of prioritization it deserves by the government and while appreciating efforts made by the government in increasing budgetary allocations from 27 billion to 90 billion in the 2020/2021 Financial Year, “the specific allocations are skewed in favor urban and peri-urban dwellers, disfavoring those in rural areas”.
“This should be critically looked into,” says the petition. “Malawi government should continue to increase funding for water, sanitation and hygiene to 10% of the national budget and or towards 1.5% of the GDP (approximately 97 million US$ per annum up to 2030).”
It says the stand-alone WaSH shall provide a mechanism for easily measuring national progress towards SDG 6 targets.
“Ministries of Health and Gender should stop running health facilities and CCBCs respectively that do not have WaSH facilities [and that the] Government should fully establish a National Water Resources Authority and an independent regulator for water supply services in the country.”
WES Network further implores on the Government repair all non-functional boreholes, fitted with hand-pumps in rural districts using data from district water development offices as informed by the most recent water points mapping exercise supported by m-Water.
“The borehole fund should be depoliticized by ensuring that technocrats are fully involved in the process of choosing sites for new boreholes as well as procurement of contractors. The borehole fund should also allocate funds towards operation and maintenance of boreholes as informed by life cycle costing analysis.
“The fund should allocate some resources towards life cycle costing analysis.”
The government is further advised to support water utilities through financing by ensuring that arrears owed to the water utilities by Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are paid.
“The government should also ensure that grants and other COVID-19 rescue packages are directed towards managing the extra demand for water and income loss from waived disconnections.”
The government is also asked to ensure increased allocation of funds at regional and district water offices, ensuring that over 1% of budget allocation for district councils goes to water sector Other Recurrent Transactions (ORT) — excluding personal emoluments.
“For example, in the 2020-2021 budgets; a ceiling of K10 million was allocated to the water offices at regional level for 9 months for all sections – water quality, ground water, hydrology and water supply. This money is also meant for maintenance of water systems and administration of all these sections.
“Malawi government should ensure full involvement of WASH CSOs in the government implementation and coordination of the COVID-19 national response plan at the department of disaster management affairs (DoDMA).”
Earlier this month, there were reports that the presidential taskforce on COVID-19 issued instructions to DoDMA to abolish the essential WaSH public programme, justifying the deactivation that it is no longer necessary since the Ministry of Education is now drilling boreholes
But stakeholders are defending the WaSH initiative and this is also contained in the petition, saying DODMA should revisit its decision on the dissolution of the WaSH cluster.
“The decision to deactivate the WaSH cluster in Malawi is to be evaluated against background that there is WaSH cluster for COVID-19 response at global level as it is felt that the battle against COVID-19 cannot be fought without functional WaSH cluster.
“However, Malawi thinks otherwise which is a very worrisome development considering that hand washing is the first line of defense in the fight against the pandemic.
“Malawi is removing the very structure that is coordinating WaSH players to make hand washing with soap possible for everyone, everywhere in Malawi.”
The petition further asks government should reduce the vacancy rate for WaSH) offices for all levels of staff and ensure that regional laboratories have adequate equipment for periodic water quality testing. Water and environmental health sub-sectors have vacancy rates of 75% and 72% respectively).
Parliament is also asked to facilitate the creation of a separate sanitation and hygiene cost center at district level and to empower them with more funds and attention.
Two weeks ago, WaterAid challenged governments in southern Africa region to seriously consider sanitation and hygiene as a priority by increasing national budgetary allocations towards this sector.
WaterAid’s regional director for southern Africa, Robert Kampala had said this during a southern Africa regional senior editor’s webinar meeting on WaSH), a service that remains a fundamental human right to the citizenry of these countries.
Kampala noted that most governments in the region are providing low budgetary allocations to the sector despite their earlier commitments to increase it and he asked stakeholders in the sector and the media to remind their governments through several channels for them to appreciate that the provision of quality sanitation and hygiene remains a fundamental human right to every citizen in their countries.
He had also observed that Malawi has over 17 million people, 13.8 million of whom don’t have access to a decent toilet and that more than 3,000 children die every year due to dirty water and poor sanitation.
In the petition, WES Network says it pledges “to continue supporting the Malawi government in WaSH interventions and we hope your office shall assist us in making sure that the above concerns are dealt with urgently”.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :