Food is one of the delicate things in life; one wrong turn and it could be game over for people who have consumed food prepared in unhygienic environments. However, a bomb is ticking in some markets of the country, as livestock is sometimes slaughtered near toilets and fed to unsuspecting customers. THOMAS KACHERE writes:
Waterborne diseases continue to be a menace in Malawi.
By March 2022, the country had registered five cases of cholera, with Machinga District Hospital registering the bulk of the cases.
However, there is a chance that waterborne diseases could be overtaken as one of the leading causes of deaths, especially during the rainy season, in the country.
This is because poor sanitation is taking root in some markets in the country.
A visit to markets such as Kachere, Bangwe, Mbayani, Chikapa and Msikawa Njala in BCA in Blantyre would help one appreciate the extent of the problem.
Take, for instance, Chikapa, in the outskirts of Machinjiri Township, Blantyre. Livestock is slaughtered close to a toilet there.
Glorious Ngalumbe from Machinjiri Township sells merchandise at Chikapa market and acknowledges that sanitation is an issue.
“At first, we had issues with toilets. But the problem was addressed.
“The problem now is that we do not have water. We need help,” she said.
During the three hours Friday Shaker was at the market, traders were popping in and out of the market, with some of them indicating that they were oscillating between the market and home because of lack of water in toilets.
“Whenever we want to answer to the call of nature, we head home, which is bad for business because customers have no patients. When one is at home answering to the call of nature, customers are buying goods from other traders, making us lose potential revenue,” said one male trader.
Chair for Chikapa Market Saidi Tsinkha said, some years ago, it was easy to manage the market because it had few people occupying it.
“At first, it was easy for us to manage the situation at the market because traders were few. We could use pit latrines properly and all the time because it was taking time for them to fill up. But, now, the number of people doing business at this market has increased and, consequently, the situation is becoming difficult to handle. We need water for the toilets because, minus water, sanitation is compromised.
“We have tried to contact the contractor who constructed the toilets but we are told that his job was only to construct the facility and not connect it to piped water. He advises us to contact Blantyre City Council (BCC) officials on the issue of water connection,” Tsinkha said.
On the issue of animal slaughtering facility, Tsika asked BCC officials to come to their rescue.
“After all, people, here, pay market fees to the council,” he said.
Field Sites Manager for Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Chimwemwe Theu said poor sanitation at any place poses as a breeding ground for diseases.
“When you look at the activities in places where animals are slaughtered, you will find that there is no anti-mortem inspection of the animals before they are slaughtered. But, if it is done, then it is not detailed [enough for one to] identify some of the zoonosis diseases that can easily be transmitted from meat to humans. So, if wastes are not properly disposed, you can see that issues to do with epidemic-prone diseases like ebola or Covid would easily increase.
“The poor disposal of waste also creates a favourable environment for the breeding of vectors and animals like cockroaches, rats and flies that can promote transmission of diseases from either the environment or animals to humans,” Theu said.
Concerned Youth Organisation, which has been promoting sanitation in markets, is equally worried.
Its programmes director Chimwemwe Kaonga said poor sanitation was one of the things affecting market management in the country.
“We are, therefore, worried with the issue at Chikapa Market, where there are toilets but no water.
“To make matters worse, traders do not have a proper site where they can be slaughtering animals,” Kaonga said.
BCC spokesperson Debra Luka said the council was planning to renovate markets and places where animals are slaughtered.
“We have plans to renovate markets,” she said.
Luka said, meanwhile, residents could play their rightful role by acting responsibly.
She said city residents has a responsibility to keep the city and their surroundings clean by not littering.
“It is not only the council’s responsibility to make sure that the city is clean but a collective responsibility,” she said.
Sustainable Development Goal number 3 of the United Nations encourages countries to ensure that people live healthy lives.
However, for Malawi to achieve this goal, all citizens must put their hands to the wheel on sanitation issues.