Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi has laid emphasis on bringing about a sustained behaviour change in the local communities to achieve the target of making the villages, towns and districts Open Defecation Free (ODF) to deal with the cholera situation in the country, which so far has claimed six lives.
Muluzi said it is time Malawians start to take responsibility for themselves and their families particularly of their health and hygiene.
"You could go to the bush and help yourself [defecate], you go to the lake and help yourself and it is a legacy of our past. However, the population today has doubled and that is no longer what it is and if one is going to openly defecate in public then that is a health threat to another person, which is a challenge," said Muluzi.
Muluzi said this in Parliament when he updated the House on the cholera situation in the country.
Rumphi East member of Parliament (MP) Kamlepo Kalua (People's Party-PP) asked if government needs donor support to build public toilets in the country for good sanitation.
But Muluzi responded that Malawi does not need support from outside to come and teach its citizens " how we take care of ourselves, that is why I am appealing to Honourable Members that this is a very serious issue that in 2018 people are still doing it, open defecting in public, in rivers and in lakes. This is a practice of our past and we really need to change the mind-set, that it is unacceptable."
Muluzi gave the House a 'toilet talk' on hygiene practices.
He said: "We can have a proper pit latrine or toilet and it does not need a donor to build a toilet or someone to help you to make a mponda gear. I do not know if honourable members know what mponda gear is. You put water in a bucket on your way to the toilet and then, you rub your hands with soap or phulutsa then, you step on mponda gear to wash your hands. I do not think you need a donor for that. It requires us to change the way we do things."
The minister said open defecation is "a big issue" and that they have to acknowledge that this is happening throughout the whole country.
He said Ministry of Health has embarked on the Open Defecation Free Campaign (ODF) over the years under the Community Rate Total Sanitation Programme which started in 2008 where the communities, with leadership of Traditional Authorities and Members of Parliament, have been encouraged to improve sanitation facilities and latrines in various constituencies.
"Let us be honest that not all of us have latrines as we still have challenges in this area. I think this is one way that we can improve and prevent diseases like cholera," said Muluzi.
He said: "The challenge is that where you have the situation where our people do not want to use latrines they would rather take the boat and go to the lake and help themselves. After using the lake in such a manner the same water is used for drinking. This is a major problem. So, when you have settlements that are very close it becomes very difficult."
The minister said government has put in place all necessary measures to deal with the cholera situation in the country and that the World Health Organisation (WHO) will deliver the first consignment of 216 000 doses of cholera vaccines before end of this week, which is to be distributed to high risk areas.
Muluzi said the vaccines are just an additional intervention and that the main strategy for cholera control remains use of safe and potable water, good sanitation, and personal hygiene.