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By Virginia Kamowa, Senior Programme Officer, Global Advocacy, WSSCC
“The WASH landscape in the country is not where we would like it to be. Malawi has a lot of WASH related challenges which we would like to resolve but barriers are many. How can we achieve total sanitation and hygiene for everyone when only 6.7 percent of households use soap for handwashing after toilet use? The scale of the problem is compounded by natural disasters like floods which reverse all the gains made in some areas.”
The above were some of the issues said to be affecting progress to achieve sanitation and hygiene for everyone in Malawi as shared by WASH sector partners at a recent national consultation workshop organized on 13th June 2016. The Malawi national consultation workshop was the first in a series of 16 national consultations organized as part of the WSSCC 2017-2020 strategy development process.
The national consultations could not have come at a better time than now when the SDGs’ Agenda 2030 is less than a year since its launch. The SDGs present a big opportunity for the WSSCC 2017-2020 strategy formulation. They set a good backbone for the new architecture of WSSCC going forward. In line with the Agenda 2030 aspirations, the council does not want to continue doing business as usual. We aspire to change the way we work to ensure that we are fit for purpose in order to deliver the aspirations of the ambitious target 6.2 which is in nature ambitious, comprehensive and in line with our aims and vision: SDG Target 6.2 reads “by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”.
In line with the principles of the new international development Agenda 2030 we strive to be inclusive in the design and implementation of our next strategy. To this end, we have dedicated time to step back and provide a platform and space for partners and members to share their aspirations for the new WSSCC 2017-2020 Strategy. The consultation workshop in Malawi discussed the country’s national priorities on sanitation and hygiene, the current status of WASH in the country and barriers faced and explored the national direction for the work of WSSCC.
Being a partnership and membership organizations, we value the views, propositions and recommendations of our partners and members on what would make a meaningful difference to the most marginalized. We want to work towards responding to the needs of our members, partners and national governments. Most of all we would like our work to address specific sanitation and hygiene needs of women, girls, the disabled the elderly and other marginalized groups in line with target 6.2.
The Malawi workshop participants reminded each other that the SDGs pose a new challenge to everyone as they focus on universality, aiming at providing quality sanitation and hygiene services to everyone everywhere. The participants challenged each other on how universality will be achieve in the face of many barriers in the sector. They all agreed it’s time to ‘up their game’ if the WASH targets set by the country are to be achieved by 2030.
In his opening remarks the Director of Preventive Health Services Dr Storn Kabuluzi said “there is need to let government take lead ensuring government guidelines are followed by all stakeholders.” Mr Holystone Kafanikhale Principal Environmental Officer in the Malawi Ministry of Health mentioned that even though the government leads the WASH sector efforts, partner support to the sector is very much valued as current government budget allocates only 1percent of its budget to WASH services. For instance, he said 5 of the 9 Traditional authorities that have attained ODF(open defecation free) status in the Malawi (out of 263) are supported by the WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund and the other 4 are also partner supported. Moreover, the sector is faced by challenges that require concerted efforts to address. These include but not limited to:
Inadequate financial resources to implement sanitation and hygiene interventions; inadequate support by some local leaders especially in non-triggered communities; promotion of handwashing by the GSF when the programme does not have a water component; limited supervision by government in hard-to-reach and marginalized areas and many more.
Participants affirmed that the usefulness of WSSCC to the WASH sector in Malawi cannot be overemphasized. They therefore called upon WSSCC to consider the following in the new strategy to effectively contribute towards achievement of SDG target 6.2:
Expand the scope of district coverage to reach other districts that do not have partners to support ODF drive;
Include water supply in ODF interventions to achieve handwashing and therefore hygiene at scale
Review the current Malawi ODF strategy to take on board emerging issues in WASH
Support sanitation marketing to increase the access to help people move up the sanitation ladder.
The Deputy Director of Water Supply Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Ms Emma Mbalame closed the workshop. In her remarks, she said the government and the broader WASH sector in Malawi appreciates the unprecedented and meaningful consultation of government, partners and members by WSSCC. She urged the council to seriously consider the input generated from stakeholders to strengthen its presence in Malawi but also realistically address sanitation and hygiene needs in the country. I cannot agree more with her.