WASH Program Calls For ‘Hygiene for All’ at Konzere Primary School in Malawi

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

WASH Program Calls For ‘Hygiene for All’ at Konzere Primary School in Malawi

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

At the Konzere Primary School for Girls in the Chikwawa District of Malawi, the 789 girls who are enrolled there currently have no choice but to use a toilet facility that is described as “a miserable, unhygienic facility that brings fear and danger among them.”

Alex Steven Bango, chairperson of our partner there, the Faithful Heart Foundation (FHF), is seeking support from Bread and Water for Africa® to construct a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) project which “will be done with the purpose of improving hygiene and preventing the spreading of communicable diseases such as cholera and dysentery.”

Alex notes that having a new toilet facility (or latrine without plumbing or running water) for the female students attending the school will improve their attendance, school performance, pass rates and overall personal hygiene, while at the same time reducing absenteeism and the dropout rate.

As UNICEF (originally known as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) notes, in Malawi “Poor sanitation and hygiene are major contributors to the burden of disease and child survival” and “the degradation of WASH services in affected communities… affects health, nutritional status and the safety and dignity of children and women.”

The UNICEF WASH program in Malawi, in addition to working to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water, also calls for “hygiene for all… and paying attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.”

And in places such as the Konzere Primary School where the girls’ toilet facility is crumbling and unsafe, “This lack of sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools has implications on girls’ attendance,” states UNICEF.

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition notes that many girls in Malawi are marginalized because of their gender and that “Clean and private bathroom facilities are rarely available and without these, girls will skip school when they are menstruating to spare embarrassment.

“Poor sanitation… and inadequate provision for personal hygiene at schools… cause girls to abandon school far too prematurely. In result, girls are left uneducated.”

To address this significant constraint to girls’ education the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with the government of Malawi to build more schools as well as separate latrines for boys, girls and teachers with the goal being “to incentivize young girls with clean and private sanitation facilities so they stay in school longer and adopt healthy behaviors by doing so.”

As for Alex, he told us that when he first saw the situation there at Konzere, he was “greatly shocked to see a toilet which is the only one used by the whole school body of children.

“This toilet brings great fear of an outbreak of diarrhea, cholera and many other communicable diseases,” he added, “as well as accidents among young children, especially ones from grades one to four (who are between the ages of 6 to 9) who do not have proper reasoning and decision-making skills.”

Alex said that he has asked the staff at the school about dire situation, who told him they have been reporting the matter to “responsible concerned officers” for two years, “but there has been no tangible response.”

In addition, of course, to his concern about the health and welfare of the students attending the school, he is worried that if health personnel from the government visit the school and see condition of the latrine “they may close the school.”

And along with the decrepit condition of the toilet facilities, he points out that there is “no change room the adolescent girls can use which means in times of their menstrual periods they don’t like to come to school while others are learning. “This brings poor school performance of the girls and leads many to drop out of school.”

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