July 04, 2018
Lack of proper sanitation facilities in Songwe District of Songwe Province was cited as one of the reasons that contributed to the spread of cholera in the region, towards the end of last year and well into the beginning of 2018.
Raymond Mhaluka of Bomba FM Radio visited the region to find out about how poor sanitation, lack of a clean environment and poor personal hygiene practices were contributing to the spread of the disease.
Reports showed that in a period of nine months, between September 2017 and May 2018, cholera cases were reported in nine wards in the district. Up to 852 people were infected and treated but two deaths occurred.
According to the report by health experts, it was clear that poor sanitation practices and lack of latrines contributed to the spread of the disease affecting the community in Mbala village of Mwambani ward.
The villagers were asked whether they use water in the latrines.
CUE IN: “No we don’t.”
“Some use pieces of cloth, some use ordinary paper, some don’t use anything at all after visiting the latrine. Even if we were to carry out an inspection in the village here in Mbala, you won’t find any with water. Even our leaders don’t have water in their toilets. They use the toilets like ordinary village folk. So, that’s how diseases like cholera spread. It is a common thing. In short, the environment is not ideal.”
“To tell the truth, we used to relieve ourselves wherever we could. There was no water. So, after visiting the toilet, we never washed our hands. You would either use a maize cob, because there was really no proper sanitation.”
“We still don’t have water in the toilets. We mostly use leaves of the ironwood tree as well the already used notepad sheets, old newspapers, maize cobs and only because we still don’t have modern sanitation facilities. In this whole village you can count up to 20 or 30 facilities.”
“The environment here in the village is very limiting as well, because you are never taught how to use modern toilets equipped with a flushing system. So, a young child who doesn’t know how use such a facility, will go outside to relieve himself or use leaves, if the parent is not around to assist him. So, the truth is that awareness levels are too low in the village.”
Apart from villagers having made it clear that they use different materials including water to clean themselves, they say that they are not used to washing their hands after visiting the toilet.
“The whole idea of hand washing is uncommon. I am born here, so I know that after using the toilet, people don’t wash their hands.”
“Seventy per cent of people here don’t wash their hands, only 30% do so, because only those among us that can afford a modern facility can use them. Others who use the latrines normally don’t wash their hands. How can you provide water in a latrine?”
Some reports have shown that some families do not have toilet facilities in Mbala village
CUE OUT: “Those that were found not to have put up these facilities would be arrested and prosecuted. So, we took the step to put up these facilities to avoid a lot of issues.”
This story was supported by a story grant from InfoNile and Code for Africa. It was originally broadcast by Bomba FM Radio in Swahili