Malawi using 52% of health budget in treating WASH-preventable diseases

Malawi uses 52 percent of her budgetary allocation to the health sector to treat diseases and conditions that could otherwise be prevented through improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.

Studies have further established that improvements in hygienic practices during antenatal care, labour and birth could reduce the risk of infections and sepsis by up to 25.

WaterAid Malawi Coordinator for Policy and Sector Engagement, Lloyd Mtalimanja, said he was not surprised with the revelations, saying Malawi has not done well in WASH investments.

Mtalimanja making a presentation before journalists in Lilongwe recently–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

But Mtalimanja, who made the sentiments at a media-training workshop in Lilongwe recently, has commended the government renewing its attention to WASH following the passing of World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolution on WASH in healthcare facilities (HCFs) in 2019.

The resolution calls on member states to conduct comprehensive assessments of WASH in HCFs; develop roadmaps to achieve ‘universal coverage’ of WASH in HCFs; establish and implement minimum standards, among others.

Mtalimanja observed that there is limited appreciation of the economic benefits of WASH among some actors, adding that there is a tendency to prioritize curative over (WASH-related) preventive health in planning and resource allocation within the Ministry of Health.

Some of the journalists who attended the WASH reporting training organized by WaterAid Malawi–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

“Emergence of COVID-19 has further exposed critical vulnerabilities in HCFs, such as inadequate WASH services leading to poor IPC,” he said.

He, however, commended the current administration expressing its commitment to addressing these challenges.

Mtalimanja cited the electoral campaign promise by current political administration to achieve WASH within three years and inclusion of WASH in the Malawi 2063 as a step towards the right direction.

 According to him, the advent of Covid-19 in 2019/2020 offered opportunity to advocate for and secure greater investment in hygiene services since it placed emphasis on hand hygiene (HH) as one of three key behaviours.

In his closing remarks, WaterAid Malawi Head of Advocacy, Chandiwira Chisi, said WASH are the key fundamentals for quality health care; pandemic response  and preparedness; and curbing the rise of antimicrobial resistance; decent work and economic recovery.

Chisi said it is against this backround that WaterAid is campaigning for more money, infrastructure, behaviour change campaign, accountability and capacity building to ensure that everyone has access to safe, quality, and dignified healthcare and that all health workers, are able to work safely.

He therefore called for stronger partnership with the media in accelerating progress towards equitable access to hand hygiene in all settings, and provision of adequate, gender responsive and inclusive WASH in HCFs as key enablers for improved health outcomes.

One of the editors at Malawi News Agency (MANA), Tione Andsen, assured WaterAid Malawi that journalists remain committed to contributing towards the development of WASH sector by exposing gaps to enable duty-bearers to act.

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