Boosting sanitation and hygiene in Cyclone Freddy affected schools
UNICEF's humanitarian response in Malawi
There is an excited chatter among learners, teachers, and community leaders at Mzamba Primary School in Chigumula, Blantyre, as a truck pulls up on the school premises to deliver supplies.
Like many schools in the southern region of Malawi, Mzamba Primary School has turned into a de facto camp, with villagers seeking shelter at the learning facility after being displaced by the devastation caused by Cyclone Freddy.
As of the end of March, at least 437 schools in 15 education districts have been affected, with a total of 139,929 learners impacted in primary and secondary schools.
The headteacher of Mzamba Primary School, Cynthia Mponda, reveals that 26 households camped at the school after their houses succumbed to the storm. She notes that hygiene at the school has been compromised due to the influx of people taking refuge.
“We face the twin challenges of ensuring adherence to COVID-19 and cholera prevention measures. We always emphasize the need to practice high hygiene standards to our learners, which is why we have handwash buckets outside some classrooms,” she says.
Luckily the school was also able to acquire materials to disinfect the classrooms and toilets in time for classes.
“We felt it was important to disinfect the school to keep a healthy environment,” she explains.
With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF has supported various schools affected by Cyclone Freddy with crucial water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) supplies to support cholera prevention following the devastating impacts of the cyclone. Schools have received buckets, soap, and other hygiene resources.
The head-girl of the school, 15-year-old Standard 8 learner Catherine Damiano, explained that she felt privileged that her school was one of the beneficiaries of this assistance.
She stated, "This is especially important for us girls because we struggle to clean up during the menstrual period as we have to find clean water. With the buckets, we are assured that we will have clean water in the bathrooms, ensuring that we come to school more confidently. It makes life easier for everyone." Catherine noted that providing extra buckets and pails would ensure a washing facility outside every classroom.
She further explained, "This will ensure that no student has an excuse for not washing their hands and not playing their part in containing the spread of cholera."
On her part, the school management committee chairperson, Agatha Chimwanga, explained that the school must manage the spread of cholera and COVID-19 within the school premises.
She added, "Children come here for education, so it would be unfair for them to contract diseases while they are here. Additionally, if children contract diseases here, they take them back to their homes, where they spread quickly within the communities. This is why it is important for us as the school management committee and parents to ensure adequate care and hygiene in the school environment."