The United Nations Children’s Funds (Unicef) Country Representative Mahimbo Mdoe has said poor sanitation, particularly open defecation contribute to an increase in cases of malnutrition in the country.
In her massage as the country commemorated World Toilets Day on Thursday, Mdoe said the impact of open defecation is serious in Malawi, especially among the under-five population.
According to Mdoe, a research by Unicef discovered that 4.2 percent of the population in Malawi still practices open defecation and that diarrhoea accounts for 8 percent of deaths for children under the age of 5 years.
Said Mdoe: “UNICEF is working with government and other stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector to support the poorest in our communities with knowledge and expertise in constructing improved latrines to cut the incidences of open defecation,” said Mdoe.
She said 600 children under the age of 5 years die every year from diarrhoeal diseases linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
“Intestinal parasites such as roundworm, whipworm and hookworm, are transmitted through contaminated soil in areas where open defecation is practiced. Hookworm is a major cause of anaemia in pregnant women, leading to malnourished and underweight babies.”
“There are no excuses not to act on access to toilets, especially in the poorest communities, and in particular during emergencies. Simple, affordable latrine technologies and promotion of safe hygiene practices can go a long way to protecting the youngest citizens from malnutrition,” explained Mdoe.
Leading the commemorations at Namiwawa primary school in Blantyre, Sanitation Officer for Water for People Brian Mulenga said improved latrines help to keep adolescent girls in school.
This year, the day was commemorated under the theme ‘Toilets and nutrition’.
The commemoration started with a big walk from Blantyre Education Division Offices to Namiwawa Primary School. Ten primary schools from Chilomoni zone of the Blantyre Urban Division participated in the big walk.