Welcome to the GSF Programme in Malawi

With support from the Global Sanitation Fund, through the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) , the Government of Malawi is implementing a five year (2010-2015) Accelerated Sanitation and Hygiene Practices Programme aimed at improving sanitation in six districts in the country, namely: Rumphi (in the north), Ntchisi and Nkhota-kota (in the centre), and Balaka, Phalombe and Chikhwawa (in the south). The six districts were selected for their high levels of open defecation, low access to improved sanitation and low investment in sanitation and hygiene.

The GSF programme in Malawi is aimed at implementing sanitation and hygiene initiatives that will help the Government of Malawi to attain its vision of ensuring Sanitation for All in the country and its mission of ensuring that all Malawians access improved sanitation facilities, practice safe hygiene and re-use or recycle waste for the sustainable management of the environment and socio-economic development.

The programme will help in reducing Malawi’s open defecation which the JMP 2013 Update (World Health Organisation and Unicef) estimates to stand at 7% in 2011. This reduction in open defecation will be achieved through:

  • triggering 3,600 villages and 274 schools in the six districts using Community Led Total Sanitation and School Led Total Sanitation approaches, respectively, and promoting the adoption of improved sanitation and hygiene practices;
  • conducting sanitation marketing in support of the triggering;
  • developing the capacity of government, civil society organisations and private sector actors in hygiene and sanitation promotion;
  • supporting the planning and implementation of sanitation and hygiene activities at district level;
  • documenting lessons learnt to help improve programming in sanitation and hygiene

In Malawi, the GSF programme is managed by Plan International who were appointed an Executing Agency through a rigorous procurement process. As an Executing Agency, Plan receives programme funds from WSSCC. The funds are in turn disbursed to various sub-grantees who implement the planned work on the ground.

Plan is an independent, non religious and international non-governmental organisation that promotes the rights of children. The organisation’s vision is a world in which all children realise their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignity.

One barrier to the realisation of children’s full potential is poor sanitation and hygiene, leading to sanitation related diseases that in Malawi account for up to 4,500 deaths of under-five children.

Lack of basic sanitation denies children the right to health. Poor health undeniably prevents children from accessing such other rights as education, thereby threatening their potential to become productive citizens. Plan, therefore, considers the promotion of sanitation hygiene as one key for ensuring that children live full lives. It is for this reason that with the Global Sanitation Fund support, Plan Malawi is committed to ensuring that children live in communities that are open defecation free and where a minimum of basic sanitation is provided.

This website supports the GSF programme in Malawi, by, among other things, providing information about work progress in our impact areas, lessons learnt and stories about real people benefiting from different interventions under the programme.


By Thokozani Chimbalanga, GSF Field Coordinator

For years, hundreds of learners at Mcheza Primary School in the area of Traditional Authority Sawali in Balaka District, southern Malawi had to scramble for five latrines each time nature called.

A nearby baobab tree and a maize field close to the school helped to relieve the pressure for the one latrine meant for up to 330 boys on one hand and pressure for four latrines constructed to serve up to 430 girls on the other as that is where the learners used to go to defecate.

The only water point at the school, a borehole, served not only the learners and teachers but surrounding villages as well. More pressure on the water source.

“Most of us were not washing our hands after visiting the latrines because there were always people fetching water at the borehole,” recalled Esther Bonongwe, a female student at the school.

Such was life for the learners - defecating in the open, breeding diseases in the process; failing to wash hands after visiting the latrine; and stripping themselves of their dignity as they squatted in the open to relieve themselves.

Thanks to the Global Sanitation Fund Programme which is supporting a sanitation project implemented by Training Support for Partners (TSP) in the area, the pathetic situation at Mcheza Primary School is history. TSP, which is using GSF support to help the entire area of Traditional Authority Sawali become open defecation free, intervened to save the school.
The intervention started with a meeting TSP organized to empower the Parents/Teacher Association (PTA) to be actively engaged in the school’s sanitation issues.

PTA members, mother groups, the School Management Committee and Area Development Committee members met and shared responsibilities in relation to the school’s sanitation situation.

An analysis by these concerned parties established the sanitation gaps that urgently required attention and an action plan was immediately drawn.

Today, Mcheza Primary School has sixteen additional latrines with drop-hole covers and buckets have been purchased, bringing new life to the school, according to Esther Bonongwe.

“The situation has now improved as we can now easily wash hands after visiting the latrine thanks to the water buckets conveniently placed at latrine sites”.

Another student, Lillian Kachitsa was all praises of the new latrine structures at the school.

“This is a great relief for us as we no longer go the maize field or to the baobab tree to relieve ourselves,” said Lillian, who also called upon older students to take part in educating the little ones on proper latrine use.

School Head-teacher a Mr. Lapansi noted that before the intervention by TSP, the school was losing out a lot.

“Children were spending a lot of class time looking for convenient places to relieve themselves but the latrines have solved that problem,” said Mr Lapansi.

The intervention at Mcheza Primary School is part of the efforts being undertaken under the Global Sanitation Fund Programme in Malawi.

It is anticipated that by 2015, 274 schools will have been reached with sanitation and hygiene messages. So far, 234 schools have already been reached.

“We are on the right track in terms of school sanitation. However, there is need for more empowerment of communities so that they should be able to mobilize resources for the installation of sanitation facilities in schools,” said Twitty Munkhondia, GSF Sanitation and Hygiene Technical Specialist at Plan Malawi.

In Malawi, diarrhea related diseases are said to be responsible for up to 7% of the deaths of under-five children.