Hygiene and Sanitation

The lack of adequate sanitation in rural areas is a serious problem, leading to the common practice of open defecation.


In communities where Pump Aid is just beginning its hygiene and sanitation work, it is common to find evidence of this practice: mounds of human faeces scattered around the village. The stark reality for many communities is that open defecation is the only option.

Pump Aid Water Pump
Today, an estimated 15 million people lack access to improved sanitation

The socio-economic costs of poor sanitation costs the country nearly USD$60 million, or £36 million, every year — a substantial sum for a poor country.

1) WHO/UNICEF, (2014),  Malawi Country Report, Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation


The simple, everyday act of handwashing following high-risk activities can help prevent millions of illnesses and deaths, particularly among children and infants.

760,000 Infant Deaths a year

Handwashing with soap and water can slash preventable diarrhoeal diseases that take the lives of 1,400 children under five every day – nearly 760,000 annually. 3

Diarrhoeal diseases are the 3rd leading cause of death in Malawi.

Unsafe water, lack of sanitation and hygiene together are among the top three leading causes of total disease burden in Malawi. 4

3) Reference: World Health Organization, Diarrhoeal Disease Fact Sheet
4) Reference: Bowie, C. “Burden of Disease Estimates for 2011 and the potential effects of the Essential Health Package on Malawi’s health burden.” University of Malawi, 2011.

A national assessment 1 of water and sanitation in schools revealed that while 81% of schools in Malawi used protected water sources in 2009, only 23% had acceptable sanitation, and just 4% practiced proper hygiene. It is not uncommon to read articles in local and national news outlets about pregnant women who are forced to leave their hospital beds to bring in their own water from a nearby borehole.2

The lack of convenient access to safe water and sanitation affects almost every part of daily life—and the consequences are many.

Increased illness from waterborne parasites leads to decreased productivity planting and tending to crops, and other vital income-generation activities. For children, particularly girls, it means days out of school. For women, as well as children, it means spending hours walking to and from a distant, often contaminated, water source — only to find that it has dried up. A 2011 baseline assessment carried out by Pump Aid in the Santhe Traditional Authority in Kasungu District shows that the distance between improved water sources in certain communities can be as much as 7 kilometres.

  1. 2010 Status Report of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Primary Schools, Malawi.
  2. Nyasa Times, Malawi's maternity clinic without water, toilet and bathroom: Nkhotako, 7 Feb 2013.

Through Pump Aid’s work, improvements in water access and quality, as well as in hygiene and sanitation practices, can bring about “quick wins” in health that are immediate:


Today, our partnership with rural communities is delivering secure and sustainable water as well as facilitation of community-led improvements in hygiene and sanitation practices to maximise the impact of safe and improved water sources.