It is ironic that Bolero Health Centre cries for more toilets while nursing white elephants in an impenetrable bush. Read more…
When the Chinese constructed modern toilets at Bolero Health Centre in Rumphi West, they were confident the wellbeing of the sick would improve. After all, the community was in danger of avoidable infections caused by poor sanitation and hygiene as they scrambled for few filthy pit latrines that were falling apart.
Presently, the patients and their guardians have reverted to the crumbling latrines since the new six are cut-off in the thick of tussling grass and shrubs, save for beaten narrow tracks that point to invisible doorsteps. The dewy pathways speak of neglect and needless struggles for the people groping for access to modern sanitation facilities.
Just like that, a healing place has become a breeding ground for preventable diseases, including malaria and diarrhoea.
Unfortunately, the victims of unsafe sanitation facilities are sick Malawians. In a guardian shelter near the dense locality, women stretch out their arms to show swellings resulting from repeated mosquito bites.
“It’s a disgrace,” Sarah Mughogho, the newly-elected head of Bolero health advisory committee, says. “The neglected toilets were supposed to improve the welfare of patients, but noone seems to care about them. We need to do something.”
Bolero health advisory committee, which strengthens ties between health workers and locals to improve service delivery, sounded shocked that the facility in Rumphi West is in such poor condition.
The eyesore waters down rising calls for toilets closer to wards.
“The toilets are far away. The patients struggle to access them, especially at night,” Mughogho says.
Life is tough for patients, but caring for available facilities seems tougher.
“Mosquitoes torture us day and night snakes are also common. The bush is risky,” one of the guardians said.
Councillor Dad Butao asked government to assist them with “mops and slashers”.
Just mops and slashers?
“Yes, we need assistance,” said Butao. “The health centre lacks many things as the district health office [DHO] often shuns rural facilities, favouring the district hospital. A cleaner once told me they use their own tools to keep the health centre clean.”
The conversation happened when TNM presented 12 refurbished beds complete with mattresses where over 20 in-patients, including 16 pregnant women, had just one for males, one for females and eight for maternal cases.
Built in the 1980s, the health centre serves almost 45 000 people in Nkhamanga Valley and health workers see up to 200 cases daily.
The financial pitfalls were unmistakable. Some patients sleep on the floor. They have been enduring long walks to access the toilets since water closets in wards became unusable due to low water pressure and blocked pipes. TNM duly replaced the rusty pipes and unblocked the sewer system.
However, the thickening overgrowth overshadows what the area development committee considers the “best news in two years” since Jane Kabogodo Gondwe offered them 20 beds only to grab them back when she suffered a defeat in parliamentary polls in May 2014.
Butao proceeded to dispel any doubts about the cause of the negligence.
He sounded desperate: “I don’t remember when we last got slashers.”
To him, restoring sanity at the health facility does not appear to be a priority as funding for healthcare services is dwindling.