Government’s Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) project in Rumphi might end up meaningless if issues of water are not addressed as people at a hard-to-reach area of Tchalo are drinking untreated water from rivers.
Sub-Traditional Authority (S-T/A) Chapinduka said on Thursday, when his area was certified open defecation free, that the area does not have taps, wells or boreholes.
Consequently, the situation has strained the nearby Tchalo Health Centre where cases of water-borne diseases are said to be “huge” with statistics indicating that in a month the hospital registers 72 diarrhoea cases.
Said Chapinduka: “My area which is between Mlowe and Usisya does not have safe water. My people depend on water from Tchalo River for domestic purposes. Government is advocating that we should have toilets to improve sanitation, but how will that be achieved if we don’t have water?”
In partnership with Plan International and Feed the Children, government is implementing a Global Sanitation Fund project to make sure that Malawi achieves its targets on sanitation and hygiene by advocating use of pit latrines to end open defecation.
The project, however, which is in six districts, does not have a component of water.
“The project was not designed to have a water component. But with the concerns of water raised, we will sit down with our partners to look at how best to address such issues,” said Plan country director Lilly Omondi.
Rumphi district’s director of planning and development Frank Mkandawire said Tchalo is within the council’s plans to supply it with gravity fed water system. He said it is not possible to drill boreholes in the area which is hugely mountainous.
Ministry of Health (MoH) chief of health services Charles Mwansambo said the locals should treat water with chlorine or water guard before drinking. He said this will help reduce cases of diarrhoea in the area.
Mwansambo said half of the diseases reported to hospitals in the country are due to lack of sanitation. He said 25 percent of deaths in hospitals are related to issues of sanitation.
However, the challenge at Tchalo, said the clinic officer-in-charge Kaphyongo Kabango, is that awareness on use of chlorine and water guard is minimal as few people visit the clinic for the sterilising chemical.
Said Kabango: “If people can have safe water here, cases of diarrhoea may not go beyond 10. But as it is now, the cases are so alarming, and we are afraid that we may lose some people because we usually run out of drugs to treat such conditions.”