Monthly Archives: February 2010

Innovative approach to improve sanitation in Malawi…

This is a priceless excerpt from an article send out by the PROMED disease outbreak surveillance listserv discussing cholera outbreaks in Malawi and Angola, and an innovative community led total sanitation (CLTS) approach implemented in Mkanda.  Kids and stones, what an amazing control mechanism…

Source: Inter Press Service, IPS News Agency [edited]

Defecating in the open, especially in the bush, has long been
standard practice in the rural areas of Malawi. Many people see the
construction of a toilet as a luxury they can do without in this poor
country, where up to 60 percent of the population lives below the
poverty line of USD 1.00 a day.

“Even now, you see that it is usual for many men around the country
to go by the roadside or under a tree to urinate. Some even come out
of cars just to urinate by the roadside. But for the people of
Mkanda, this sort of practice is frowned upon,” says Mchipha.

A neighbourhood watch, comprising both children and adults, patrols
the Mkanda area ensuring that no one defecates in the open. Natural
leaders — who have shown special enthusiasm for the concept during
orientation sessions run by extension workers — are charged with
coordinating efforts. “While patrolling, we are armed with catapults
which we use to stone anyone found defecating in the open,” Mkanda
resident Ganizo Kalaya told IPS.

Kalaya explains that children are engaged in the neighbourhood watch
because they are usually honest and have no hesitation sharing
information about who is still defecating in the open. He says an
emergency meeting is called if the patrol discovers any faeces in the
village grounds or bushes and that the entire neighbourhood is taken
to task to reveal the culprit.

“It gets embarrassing for the villagers to be put through such an
ordeal, as such the practice of defecating in the open is becoming a
very rare occurrence,” Kalaya says. Mkanda area has since been
declared “open defecation free” by the Mchinji district commission
and is being used as a model for the CLTS approach in the country.


Healthy Comics…

Moving beyond the academics, it was time to get serious about disseminating an outreach and extension message to the pastoralists in Ruaha.  Feedback is an integral component of research projects, an often overlooked and underappreciated component lost in the bliss of publication, graduation, etc.  From an ethical perspective, sharing research results with study participants, along with integrating any study findings into an outreach/education message to enhance awareness and promote discussion is not only necessary, but fun.

Finally, you can move beyond the technical entrapment of scientific language and do something a bit more creative.  I chose comics.  My study area is home to a large rural and pastoral population with a high rate of illiteracy.  Targeting these households required an image intensive approach.  Comics seemed an ideal medium.  Combined with disease reports informing the pastoralists if protozoal pathogens were detected in their calf herds with a simple frowning or smiling cow, a short 2 page comic on herd and household protection from infection and risk of transmission was created using the software ComicLife by Plasq.

I’ll post the finished Swahili comic here post production.  In the meantime, enjoy the English version [download a PDF via “Outreach Message(Reduced)]…


Feel free to contact me with any details on either the disease reports of comics.