By Leonard Masauli:
For many years, issues of hygiene have been a challenge in Karonga District, especially for those living in flood-prone areas and along the lake.
While farmers smile at the flooding for the sake of rice production, concerns about hygiene have become common in communities and schools.
When floods strike, most toilets are washed away, others filled with water, leaving households and learners stranded.
Every year, people construct new makeshift toilets because they do not have enough money to build permanent latrines that can withstand floods.
The situation poses a challenge to the achievement of sustainable sanitation and hygiene in schools and communities in the areas of Traditional Authority Kilupula (T/A) and Paramount Chief Kyungu.
Primary and secondary school learners are the most affected.
Dyna Mwambembe is a Standard Seven learner at Mwanjasi Primary School in T/A Kilupula.
She says her school life experience is traumatic considering the danger learners go through in times of floods.
Dyna says when there are floods, toilets are filled with water, bringing out maggots from the pits.
“It is so depressing; we see maggots everywhere when pit latrines are filled with water. We have nowhere to go to relieve ourselves in times of floods,” she laments.
A Standard Eight girl, Mawoma Kayira, says issues of good hygiene are a challenge at the school because all the toilets are in dilapidated state and have no doors for privacy.
“We, girls, are the most hit because we have nowhere to go to clean ourselves during menstruation,” she says.
Head teacher for Kakoma Primary School, Absalom Shera, says floods have, for a long time, robbed learners of their happiness and hard-working spirit.
“When floods occur, there is always panic to maintain good sanitation and hygiene at the school because most toilets are filled with water and become unusable,” Shera says.
He adds that the school, with 1,149 learners, struggles to use only four toilets which are in dilapidated state.
“Due to inadequate toilets, sometimes teachers and learners are forced to use the same toilets, a situation which erodes respect for the teachers.
“We live by God’s grace because, when floods come, we see maggots from the toilets everywhere and there are some learners that walk without putting shoes on,” Shera says.
In the wake of the plight of learners at Mwanjasi and Kakoma schools, a faith-based organisation, Salvation Army, recently intervened with support for the construction of permanent toilets that can withstand floods.
Salvation Army Programmes Manager, Matthews Tombolombo, says the organisation is advocating community-led total sanitation to ensure that households own modern permanent toilets.
The organisation has since embarked on construction of 10 toilets in five primary schools to the tune of K35 million in T/A Kilupula and part of Paramount Chief Kyungu’s as one way of achieving sustainable hygiene.
Tombolombo says there is need for modern toilets in communities and schools to ensure they withstand annual flooding.
“It is, however, not sustainable to advocate community-led total sanitation while people continue to build temporary toilets which are swept away in times of floods, prompting them to use the bush. This is why cholera terrorises Karonda every year,” he adds.
The organisation has drilled 40 boreholes across flood-prone areas to ensure people have clean and safe water.
Karonga District Education Manager, Scotch Kondowe, hails Salvation Army for constructing modern toilets in schools, saying they will help reduce dropout rates among girls.
“Dropout rates are high among girls in the senior classes due to issues of sanitation, especially in flood-prone areas like T/A Kilupula,” Kondowe says.
Quality Assurance Manager for Salvation Army Sweden International Development, Ngolia Kimanzu, says he is impressed with the impact the programme has registered with support from traditional leaders and the government, so far.
“As Salvation Army, we will make sure to support the programme so that it brings great impact to a number of communities,” Kimanzu says. —Mana
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