In the news: Poor sanitation igniting cholera outbreak

Written by  Eunice Ndhlovu
source: MBC Online
Poor sanitation is said to be one cause of different diseases at household and community level in the world. One of the well known diseases associated with poor sanitation is cholera that affected Malawi and other African countries a few months ago. Our reporter finds out why Lilongwe City was one of the areas/districts hardly hit by cholera.
Water Kiosk at Area 36

Water Kiosk at Area 36

Water is life so they say, but water can also cause danger to lives, since it can become a carrier of diseases if not treated properly. For people in some densely populated areas in Lilongwe, the start of the rainy season last year brought with it some sad tales following a cholera outbreak forcing the Ministry of Health to declare areas like Ntandire, Mchitanjiru, Kauma and Phwetekere as cholera hot spots. In total Lilongwe recorded 388 cumulative Cholera cases, with 18 deaths.

The cholera story being told from such areas would make one wonder, why cholera hot spots in the capital city? This being water borne disease which is preventable, and Lilongwe of all places one would expect not to associate the city with such cases, not even having some areas being the worst hit. But there are plenty of untold stories, another side of the city life that contributed to the cholera outbreak.

A visit to Ntandile Township tells it all. Issues of sanitation are a major concern and their chief, village head Chikankhana says lack of proper toilets in his area contributed to the cholera outbreak that affected his subjects.

“Some of the problems that we encounter are over population which makes it difficult to manage refuse. Space is really a challenge, people don’t have a place to dump their refuse,” said Chief Chikankhana.

The visit, took us to area 36, in Mitengo area and the story is not any different. Senior group Kaondo of the area cites refuse disposal as another challenge, coupled by high population where people build houses without following city plans.

Chief Kaondo: Population is booming at fast rate

“In the past population was small and space to build houses was not a problem. At the moment people build everywhere even in places where you cannot imagine a house could be. Because of this situation you can see that cholera is easily spread, what we need is a solution to deal with it,” lamented Senior Group Kaondo.

In Kauma unavailability of safe drinking water comes to light. Senior group Kauma says the issues of sanitation and hygiene are a big challenge.

“Imagine up to now some people still don’t have toilets and bathrooms on their plots with 3 or 4 houses. With our poverty you see people renting the houses, the situation is not good at all,” said Chief Kauma.

The revelations came into light following the formation of Bwalo forums an initiative by Parent and Health Child Initiative (PACHI) an organization that conducted a baseline survey to establish the root cause of the cholera outbreak in Lilongwe City.

Bwalo members in Area 36

PACHI’s Project coordinator Laura Munthali says as a stakeholder the organization did the survey to find a lasting solution to cholera situation in the city by engaging the communities themselves.

“We have noticed that people in all the areas we are working have positively embraced the idea of Bwalo forums. We hope this initiative will help not only on cholera issues but also some challenges facing the communities,” indicated Munthali.

So far, 23 Bwalo forums have since been established where people under their community leaders are working to prevent a repeat of such an outbreak.

Formation of Bwalo forums compliments the work that government is doing, in sensitizing people even in areas that were not hit by the outbreak, as a pre-cautionary measure, that is according to Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango.

“As a ministry we have intensified sensitization in all districts of the country even where cholera outbreak did not reach. The Ministry of Health is working with communities and partners to ensure that people are taking hygiene issues with keen interest to end cholera,” said Malango.

Meanwhile, government through the Ministry of Local Government and rural development has intensified the establishment of rural growth centers that are aimed at reducing rapid urban growth by providing services available in towns close to people in rural and peri-urban areas.

The rapid urban growth has accelerated urban poverty making people scramble for provision of services like potable water and other sanitation facilities, the case of most of the once declared cholera hot spots in Lilongwe City.