Ensuring that children and women have access to safe water and appropriate sanitation and that they learn healthy hygiene practices is a big determinant of children survival and development. With water-borne diseases being among the major causes of death in young children in Malawi, providing safe water and improved sanitation takes on urgent dimensions.
Malawi has made significant progress in increasing access to safe water and sanitation. According to the 2006 MICS report, access to safe water is at 74 per cent, access to improved sanitation is at 47 per cent while access to basic sanitation which includes traditional latrines is as high as 88 per cent. However, good hygiene practices are rather low with only 37 per cent of the population practising better hygiene. To achieve the MDG goals for water and sanitation, about 210,000 and 360,000 people need to be served on an annual basis at a cost of US$8.28 million per year.
Effective provision of safe water is compromised by frequent breakdowns of water points. One-third of community water points are not operational at any point in time due to these frequent breakdowns. Approximately 20 to 25 per cent of schools have no protected water supply and on average there is one school latrine for every 150 pupils. Poor hygiene, lack of sanitation and low quantity and quality of drinking water all contribute to Malawi’s poor health indicators for mothers and children, and negatively affect their livelihood.
Pupil abseenteism is high especially among girls who menstruating. Drop-out rates are higher for older girls, exercebated by a lack of girl-friendly sanitation facilties in schools. Of the more than 5,000 primary schools in Malawi, 12 per cent do not have safe drinking water. A UNICEF project baseline in 2002 found that of the schools with water supply, 22 per cent not working. School latrine-pupil ratios in 40 sampled schools were 1:134 for girls and 1:136 for boys.
The water and sanitation sector has been prioritised in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy. The country already has a Water Policy and in 2008 adopted the National Sanitation Policy which brings better coordination to the sector and spells out the roles and responsibilities of the different players.
Photo essay: Water and sanitation in schools
Learn more about the challenges faced children at school in Malawi and what UNICEF is doing about water and sanitation in shools depicted through photos.
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