Malawi struggling to achieve sanitation, hygiene

Development partners in the health sector have observed that Malawi continues to struggle to achieve the very basic standards of sanitation and hygiene such as washing hands with soap.

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 The observation is made in a statement released on Tuesday as Malawi joined the global community in commemorating Global Hand Washing Day.
In Malawi, activities to celebrate the day were held at Chikombe Full Primary School in the area of Traditional Authority Makanjira in Salima.
 
Health Donors Group chairperson Johannes Wedenig said although Malawi has registered significant progress in tackling various diseases and infections, the country is still far from achieving basic standards of sanitation and hygiene such as handwashing with soap.
 
Wedenig disclosed that only 10 percent of the estimated 17 million population wash their hands with soap after using the toilet, changing the babies nappies, before preparing and eating food.
 
“Most people in this country are aware of the importance of handwashing with soap for the prevention of diarrheal diseases. However, the knowledge that people have is not translated into everyday practice,” he said.
 
He said it was time Malawians had started transforming the knowledge into action, which he emphasised that it can only be achieved through a change in attitude and behaviours.
 
According to Wedenig, development partners have come up with a number of approaches to promote and ensure handwashing with soap at critical times.
 
He said all this is aimed at ensuring that hand washing becomes a habit for all individuals in a household – both children and adults.
 
“We have used community and school-based hygiene promotion to work towards hand washing with soap becoming a lifestyle for everyone. Evidence shows that handwashing with soap at critical times is a very effective way to prevent diarrheal diseases,” he said.
 
The Ministry of Health chief director Bestone Chisamile disclosed that more than 52 percent of the patients who seek treatment in public hospitals, particularly outpatients, do suffer from sanitation and hygiene-related diseases.
 
Chisamile also disclosed that about 89 percent of the households in Malawi own pit latrines or toilets.
 
“And of these, only 33.7 percent of the households with latrines have constructed hand washing facilities and only 8.7 percent of these hand washing facilities have soap,” he explained.
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