By Saiti Chikwapulo
I believe the work of VillageReach has saved lives. Our work, supported by generous donors, has changed the way an entire community has approached health and healthcare services by providing access to safe water, improvement of hygiene practices, and high uptake of healthcare services –leading to a healthier and more productive community.
Before VillageReach, Kwitanda was facing quite a number of health challenges as many Malawi communities face; cholera and other diarrhea diseases were common. Many people were getting sick, contributing to an unproductive and unhealthy community.
A major contributing factor to the reduction of these diseases was the implementation of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approaches. Previous approaches to human waste disposal in our community were not working because they were not affordable or sustainable. By figuring out ways that the community could lead the effort, rather than depend on, or wait for others to do it, we created sustainable change.
By figuring out ways that the community could lead the effort, rather than depend on, or wait for others to do it, we created sustainable change.
A modification of the CLTS approach called School Led Total Sanitation focused on improving sanitation facilities in schools, coupled with a hygiene education programme in the belief that the children are change agents in their communities to enforce and enhance adoption of the community initiative. In this case, the Kwitanda schools have been instrumental in this community-lead process, working with VillageReach to ensure adequate numbers of toilets and washing facilities are available at all schools. Every school now has a management committee and Parent Teacher Association (PTA). These school-based structures are modes of delivering adequate sanitation facilities in schools. Their main purpose is to mobilize communities to take these issues on, with VillageReach encouraging, supporting and advising as needed. The schools and the PTA raised their own funds and organized all of the required labor to build adequate toilet facilities. The community now has a sense of ownership and pride in being able to provide and maintain healthy sanitation systems for their own schools.
These two approaches have improved sanitation facility availability, use and adoption of positive protective hygiene practices, thereby contributing to fighting cholera and other hygiene-related diseases in Malawi.
Education and promotion of healthy standards and hygiene practices, like providing a tight-fitting pitlatrine drop-hole cover and hand washing facilities, has also contributed to the elimination of Cholera and other illnesses. Through outreach and education efforts lead by VillageReach, every house has access to health messages and information promoting health and hygiene.
VillageReach has also played a very important role in reducing illness by increasing access to a reliable source for clean water. Kwitanda is in a low lying area with many streams of water flowing, especially during the rainy season. We have a lot of pools of water and water pollution is common. People would often drink from these contaminated water sources by drinking from unprotected dug wells, one of the primary ways cholera is transmitted. VillageReach broke that cycle of transmission by drilling boreholes (40 meter holes with pumps) in order to improve access to protected water sources. In addition, our team worked with the community leaders and health center to greatly improve the supply and protection of drinking water in the home by making available and promote use of chlorine solution, commonly used to kill water-based or water-washed disease-causing pathogens. This is especially critical during the rainy season, when the rate of transmission is highest. Before VillageReach intervened, availability of chlorine solution was not consistent, stock outs were common, lowering community trust in the supply and decreased use in homes. Applying the VillageReach model, starting at the last mile, working from the end of the supply chain up, greatly improved availability and use. People began to trust the system more knowing that product would be available at their local Health Center when they needed it, and this greatly increased usage in homes.
A report from the Ministry of Health Malawi reports that no Cholera cases were reported in 2013! Read the story here.
As Cholera has been a major public health concern in Malawi, this is great progress.
If we can make such significant changes in one community of Kwitanda, imagine what could happen if we apply this model on a larger scale?
For more information on our Kwitanda Health Project
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