WOMEN LEAD SANITATION IMPROVEMENTS IN MALAWI, ONE LATRINE AT A TIME
“Faliya and I have built over 14 toilets and we are not slowing down,” says Kitty Kachingwe Likuda, a resident of Khanyizira in Malawi’s southern district of Mulanje.
The lack of proper sanitation and hygiene remains one of the greatest barriers to global development. Approximately 47% of households in rural areas of Malawi still lack access to an improved sanitation facility, which commonly leads to waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea. The impacts are particularly devastating for children – diarrheal disease is a leading cause of death among children in Malawi.
In 2016, 53% of households in Mulanje district did not have sanitation facilities that met national standards, including a roof, a strong structure that does not leak or collapse and is not shared beyond household members, a drop-hole cover, impermeable floors, lockable doors, and a handwashing facility.
With support from USAID’s ONSE Health Activity, the Khanyizira community formed a Community Health Action Group – a platform to work together to explore health-related problems and develop action plans to address them. Hygiene and sanitation emerged as a key priority for community members, who cited access to proper sanitation and clean water as vital for the health and safety of their children and families. In response, the ONSE team and its partners mobilized local masons, building their skills and supervising the construction of improved latrines.
The installation of basic latrines includes laying the cement or sand screed that makes the floor impermeable, reducing odors, and making latrines more hygienic and easier to clean. The use of a flapper, also known as a SaTo Pan, operates much like a trap door, helping limit the transmission of disease by ensuring that latrines are closed off from open air to prevent flies and insects from spreading disease.
ONSE organized, financed, and facilitated a demonstration exercise in Khanyizira where community members witnessed the construction of an improved pit latrine. The demonstration promoted handwashing to ensure good hygiene practices in the community, and simple handwashing facilities, locally known as “mponda gear” or Tippy Taps, were installed at the entrance of every latrine.
Kitty and Faliya Mungwala, secretary of the Khanyizira Community Health Action Group, attended the demonstration, which reflected a growing demand for hygienic, basic latrines. After local leadership and community members noted that trained masons were often absent from many assigned tasks and did not meet expectations, the community grew frustrated. Faliya and Kitty decided to do something about it. They would build the latrines themselves.
To improve their skills and build confidence among their community and customers, Faliya and Kitty requested that ONSE facilitate a training for them. ONSE supported this initiative and provided formal training to Faliya and Kitty in improved latrine construction and flapper installation.
“After they saw our work, our community was very supportive, and before long, everyone wanted us to build them a toilet with a flapper,” says Faliya. “This has also helped our families to be economically secure. Before this, I was a housewife and I depended on my husband for everything. Now I am able to contribute financially in the home and we no longer lack basic necessities. Our children are well fed, and we no longer struggle to find money to pay for their school fees or uniforms.”
Source: Photos and story by Sam Sande, District WASH Officer, and Rejoice Phiri, Communications Manager, USAID’s ONSE Health Activity