Access to portable clean water and sanitary facilities remains a challenge for people of Malawi especially of Karonga district.
The development poses a threat to people’s health as the likelihood of continued cholera outbreaks remains high.
Karonga is one of the 13 districts in Malawi that were hit by cholera for about six months from November 2017.
The district registered 347 cholera cases and seven deaths were recorded.
Statistics indicate that Lilongwe surpassed Karonga with 385 cases and 18 deaths from the disease.
According to the District Environmental Health Officer, about 20% of people in the Karonga have no access to portable clean water while 30% have no access to sanitary facilities such as pit latrines. A lack thereof, being some of the contributing factors to the spread of cholera.
Luis Tukula said the inaccessibility to safe water and sanitary facilities are not particularly confined to a particular geographical area but the problem is relatively prominent in areas along Lake Malawi.
“And these areas without access to safe water and sanitary facilities were among those severely hit by the cholera outbreak that recently affected the district,” Tukula told Capital FM.
“One of the reasons is sandy soils. It is impossible to drill boreholes in sandy soils, the other reason is accessibility, borehole drilling machines cannot be taken to other areas because they are impassable,” he said.
He added, “Similar to latrines, some communities, especially along the lake, it’s partly due to sandy soils. Latrines easily collapse during the rainy season; the other reason is perennial floods which wash away pit latrines.”
Apart from inaccessibility to potable water and sanitary facilities, the district is also facing negative behavior from community members, as some communities despite having access are not making use of the access they have, a behavior Tukula said they are working on changing.
“There is negative behavior with other people preferring lake water even if they have access to safe water, claiming lake water is more palatable, the same applies to use of pit latrines.”
“But slowly things are changing. People are being transformed, behavior wise through Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) we are currently implementing across the district,” he said.
“Like in the case of latrines, currently no Traditional Authority has been declared ODF. However, all villages have so far been triggered and follow-ups are in progress, sporadic villages have achieved ODF status so far but our target is Traditional Authority level,” said the District Environmental Officer.