Clean water, decent toilets, sanitation challenges in southern African communities-global issues

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Trash collection bins waiting for the city council to collect. The market is one of the goals of the SADC health strategy. This photo was taken at around 5 in the morning, when people gathered on a market day. The health center in the story is just a stone’s throw away. ? Credit: Charles Mpaka? /IPS? ?
  • Charles MpakaBlantyre, Malawi)
  • International news agency

Defective facilities are also used as bathrooms.

In November 2021, when her first child was born, she stayed at the center for four days. She said it was a kind of courage to go to the bathroom and toilet.

“When you want to take a bath or relax yourself, the picture is scary, because half of the time, it’s a mess and the stench is terrible,” she told IPS.

At night, there were no lights and mosquitoes were everywhere in the room.

In addition, users do not have much dignity and privacy. There is no door, so women use their packages improvisationally to protect privacy.

“So, you are taking a shower and someone comes in seeking relief,” the 23-year-old girl said in an interview with IPS at her home. Her one-month-old baby girl is sleeping peacefully on her lap. Workers at the facility clean two toilets-but there are no detergents and they only clean them once a morning. One day, the women in the ward and their guardians begged the workers to clean the toilet at least twice a day. “They yelled at us, saying that we are not the ones who pay their salaries and that we should focus on our purpose of going to the medical center,” Paul said.

During her four days in the health center, the only wash basin in the ward never provided soap.

In November, this experience, and the experience of many others like Paul, became the top agenda of the meeting of health ministers. Southern African Development Community (SADC) In Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. At that meeting, the ministers approved the SADC Health Strategy (2021-2025).

According to the strategy developed by the SADC Secretariat, the analysis of the national blueprint for sanitation, water, sanitation, environmental health and nutrition in the region shows that there is a “favorable environment” for the implementation of sanitary habits.

However, there is still a considerable gap in most of the 16 member states.

“There is still a need to mainstream and integrate sanitation into most national policies to expand the foundation of an enabling environment to effectively and sustainably promote sanitation practices,” it wrote.

Therefore, the framework challenges the SADC government to increase health coverage and behavior changes in all environments. These environments include healthcare facilities, schools and daycare centers, workplaces and commercial buildings, prisons, markets and food venues, transportation centers, and places of worship.

Key hygiene practices include hand washing with soap, safe drinking water management, fecal disposal, food hygiene, menstrual hygiene, and waste management.

As far as health care centers are concerned, they need to have safe and accessible water supply, clean and safe sanitation facilities, hand sanitation facilities for care points and toilets, proper waste disposal systems and environmental cleanliness.

According to this strategy, infrastructure that supports sanitation and medical waste management practices helps prevent the spread of diseases in medical service facilities and surrounding communities.The strategy was developed with the support of UNICEF and Water aid Southern Africa.

WaterAid Southern Africa Regional Communications Manager Maureen Nkandu stated that the policy emphasizes the need for leadership, commitment and accountability, “to create a culture of health behavior and practice at all levels of society, and to achieve health services, behavior change and promotion. Basic hygiene”.

“In order for these goals to be effective, every SADC country needs strong planning, financial resources, implementation, monitoring and evaluation systems,” Nkandu told IPS.

She said that WaterAid has convened key partners, including civil society and development agencies for WASH, to request sufficient resources to effectively implement the strategy.

In addition, achieving sustainable health behaviors across generations requires large-scale innovative behavior change programs. Nkandu said that this can be achieved through adequate funding, coordination of relevant departments and political leadership.

Maziko Matemba, the community health ambassador appointed by the Malawi Ministry of Health, said that for Malawi, the strategy provides an opportunity for the country to work harder to achieve the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SGD).

Matemba confirmed Paul’s experience. He observed that many medical institutions in Malawi became a source of infection for patients, guardians and visitors due to poor sanitation.

“The sanitation and sanitation of most of our public health facilities is a serious problem. People go to the hospital for treatment, but we have some cases. After returning home, patients and guardians contracted new health conditions due to poor sanitation,” he Said and cited the restroom as a hot spot.

Matemba believes that medical facilities can promote good hygiene in Malawi and SADC.

“People gather in these facilities to seek services. This is a huge advantage in promoting family awareness messages and showing people how to promote good hygiene at home according to their own standards,” said Matemba, who is also the local organization of the Health and Rights Education Program (HREP). )’S executive director. But in all of this, funding is a major factor, he observed.

“Hospital administrators told us that if they don’t have the money to buy major commodities such as medicines, so we see these chronic shortages of medicines, how can mops, hand-washing materials, and chemicals for toilet cleaning become a priority?”

Matemba told IPS that although civil society organizations have been fighting for the government to solve the serious shortage of hospital funds for many years, there has not been much change.

“Development budgets are always inadequate. Recurrent expenditures that are already lower than needed have been further reduced, leaving very little and almost no timely use of facilities. The Ministry of Finance always says that the scope of resources is limited,” Matemba said.

He said that the strategy challenges Malawi’s position as the chairman of SADC to guide member states to improve the health status of the region by solving their own problems.

Adrian Chikumbe, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, told IPS that the SADC strategy is an important way to minimize the spread of infections in health facilities and communities.

According to Chikumbe, a recent evaluation by the Ministry showed that nearly one-third of Malawi’s health care facilities lack running water, and 80% of patient toilets do not have related hand-washing facilities.

The assessment also found that environmental cleanliness is generally below average, which is characterized by poor waste management.

He said that most of the lower-level facilities in the country lack the resources to maintain a fully functional WASH infrastructure.

“The government recognizes that it cannot do everything alone. Therefore, it plans to mobilize the support of partners led by regional authorities to plan and prioritize water, sanitation and personal hygiene infrastructure in all sanitation facilities,” he said.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: International News Service