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MALAWI PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY POSITIVE ABOUT GLOBAL SANITATION FUND PROGRAMME

Malawi leader, President Peter Mutharika and First Lady Getrude Mutharika say that Beautify Malawi (BEAM), a trust founded by the first lady, can benefit from the Global Sanitation Fund Programme in creating a cleaner and healthier Malawi.

The president Mutharika and the first lady expressed their sentiments at Kamuzu Palace in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, during a meeting with the Programme Director of the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) David Shimkus who was recently in the country on a five day visit to appreciate the progress of the Five million USD programme being implemented by Plan Malawi on behalf of government.

BEAM is working to promote cleanliness in the environment through good waste management practices, among others.

During the meeting at Kamuzu Palace, President Mutharika bemoaned the state of sanitation and waste management in the country.

“We have a very big problem in the country in terms of sanitation. However, there is real determination to get things done and I hope your visit here will help improve the quality of work by Beam,” said President Mutharika.

“On our part, we will introduce legislation on clean air and waste management and once we create a culture of taking care of the environment and waste management we will get there,” the president added.

On her part, Mrs Mutharika said she was excited about the efforts that organizations are undertaking to make Malawi a better place, indicating that cleaner environments would attract foreign investors.

“We are lagging behind in the way we manage waste. At Beautify Malawi we want to complement efforts by organisations in the sanitation sector,” said Mrs Mutharika.

Following a briefing of the work being supported by the Global Sanitation Fund in the country, the First Lady called for a partnership with the Programme.

“We want Beam to partner with the Global Sanitation Fund, financially and technically. We want to work together to ensure a cleaner and healthier Malawi,” added the First Lady.
In his remarks, the GSF Programme Director Mr Shimkus hailed the concept of Beam.

“It is very encouraging to see the birth of the concept of Beautify Malawi which has a firm belief in linkages and collaboration with players that pursue similar goals and objectives,” Shimkus said.

The Global Sanitation Fund which was created by the Geneva based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) supports governments in developing countries to help their people, especially rural populations, access sustainable sanitation services and facilities, with stopping open defecation as the first step.

While in Malawi, Mr Shimkus held meetings with key stakeholders in the sanitation sector, among them the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture, Water Development and Irrigation and Nkhota-kota District Council members who collaborate with project implementing organisations in the district.

Open defecation is responsible for most diarrheal diseases that are said to claim up to 7% of the deaths of under five children in Malawi.

Up to about 8% of the country’s population still defecate in the open, a practice that the Government would like eliminated by 2015.

Managed by Plan Malawi on behalf of government, the Global Sanitation Fund is contributing towards this goal through financial support to projects implemented in the districts of Rumphi, Nkhota-kota, Ntchisi, Balaka, Phalombe and Chikhwawa.

It is anticipated that by 2015, the programme will have reached out to 3,600 villages, 60 markets and 274 schools, translating to about 1.06 million people.

THE POWER OF NATURAL LEADERS IN SCALING UP CLTS

A traditional leader in Ntchisi district, central Malawi, has commended natural leaders in his village for the role that they are playing in promoting Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)in their community where a GSF supported project is being implemented.

Village headman Chamba of Traditional Authority Chikho in the district expressed his sentiments in an exclusive interview following revelations that he relied on natural leaders more than government extension workers in post-triggering follow up activities that earned his village an ODF status.

Natural leaders are community members identified during triggering sessions to support their community by making follow ups to ensure sanitation targets set by the communities themselves are met and sustained.

Villagers in Chamba earlier indicated that they did not relate well with the Health Surveillance Assistants assigned to their area, which prevented them from taking the government extension worker’s advice on latrine construction and other sanitation issues.

According to village head Chamba, sanitation was not a priority among his subjects.

“When my village was triggered in May 2013 only eight of the total twenty five households had latrines and these few did not have hand washing facilities and drop hole covers,” revealed the traditional leader.

“As if that was not bad enough, progress towards an ODF status slowed miserably as my subjects were not ready to cooperate with the extension workers because of poor social relations between the two sides,” said the village head.

One year after the triggering in 2013, members of Chamba village were still practicing open defecation and this prompted verification team members from neighboring communities to visit Chamba village.

“They stopped over to discuss with us the effects of open defecation and share experiences on what other communities including our neighbouring village which was already open defecation free were doing.

“I felt bad when one verification team member, an Environmental Health Officer Mr Mtonga, remarked that we ought to pity ourselves for continuously eating shit just because of bad relations between the extension worker and my subjects. This prompted me and other community members to opt for natural leaders, instead of the Health Surveillance Assistant, to intensify follow up activities,” recalled the village headman.

According to the village headman, the natural leaders were assigned to visit households every week to ensure that everyone had a latrine with hand washing facilities and drop-hole covers.

Records indicate that the tactic carved wonders as a month of such follow ups by the natural leaders led to the village’s attainment of an ODF status.

That this has been the case is not surprising. Even Malawi’s open defecation free strategy recognises natural leaders as having proved to be key in helping villages to achieve the much-sought-after ODF status.

Meanwhile, the reliance of natural leaders in sanitation promotion has attracted positive feedback from GSF Sanitation and Hygiene Technical Specialist at Plan Malawi Twitty Munkhondia.

“It is a very good initiative because when communities do things on their own there is a lot of ownership and this is good for the sustainability of the project,” said Munkhondia.

The sanitation project in the area of Traditional Authority Chikho is being implemented by World Vision Malawi with funding from the Global Sanitation Fund through Plan Malawi.

PROJECT TO CARRY ON WITH COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

Implementers of the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) project in Phalombe District say they will continue empowering community members with the knowledge and skills necessary for the attainment of a better sanitation status.

Project Coordinator for Concern Universal, a Plan Malawi partner on the GSF programme, Blessings Gondwe was commenting on his organisation’s role when a village is declared open defection free.

“We continue interacting with the communities to ensure that they don’t revert to open defecation,” said Gondwe.

Among the community empowerment tactics that Concern Universal has employed in Traditional Authority Kaduya is the training of masons to produce latrine drop-hole covers.

“In addition to the masons involved in the production of slabs, in each village we have trained a mason who produces drop-hole covers for sale. These drop-hole cover makers are identified by traditional leaders,” Gondwe said.

One of the masons trained under the project is 27 year old carpenter Kesten Mutaga of Mwangala village who says diversified into the drop-hole cover business as part of his contribution towards efforts to improve the sanitation situation in his village.

“I was approached by our village head to be part of the training of masons who would be providing drop-hole covers. I accepted because as a community we were frequently hit by diarrheal diseases and the introduction of the project in the village was a great relief to us,” explained Mutaga.

The one day training organised by the GSF partner in Phalombe District among other things exposed the masons to different types of drop-hole covers.
Mutaga has so far sold over 170 drop-hole covers, each going at about half a US dollar.

"I don’t do it for profit but simply to help serve the village,” said Mutaga who indicated sometimes community members get the drop-hole covers on loan if they don’t have enough money.

Drop-hole covers are an essential element in preventing the use of conventional latrines in Malawi. The facilities cut dangerous links between flies and the outside world where contamination from the latrine causes deadly diseases.

In the area of Traditional Authority Kaduya which has 75 villages, the GSF project is being implemented in 62 villages, suggesting that there are also 62 masons providing sanitation facilities in form of drop-hole covers in the area.

With a population of 57, 000 people, the area of Traditional Authority Kaduya in which Mwangala village is located, has 13,000 and 400 basic and improved latrines, respectively, and slightly over 13,000 drop-hole covers, according to the latest data from the Malawi GSF programme Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist’s desk.

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