WASHTED: A Leading Centre in Research and Capacity Building

Article   Chapter Banda & Mercy Garnet   October 17, 2018
Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is essential for growth, survival and development. WASH is a Public Health key issue and essential to attaining goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Most low-income countries face the burden of WASH-related diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid fever and intestinal worms (helminths).

Safely managed drinking-water services, safely managed sanitation services, and good hygiene practices are key to reducing risks of WASH-related diseases. Appropriate technology development is, therefore, an essential tool in over-coming the challenges.

With this background, the Centre for Water, Sanitation, Health, and Appropriate Technology Development (WASHTED) was established in 2003 at the Malawi Polytechnic under the Faculties of Applied Sciences and Engineering to be a leading centre for research, capacity building and outreach in water, sanitation and health (WASH) and appropriate technology.

WASHTED was established to improve coverage of water, sanitation and health through the provision of simple, affordable innovations in different communities, and the provision of water sources in health facilities: The thinking was that this would decrease mortality.

Furthermore, the centre was also established to train staff members and the public in research, teaching and supervision of students, especially post-graduates. It provides weekly training courses to members of staff in these areas. WASHTED also helps members to write grant proposals and papers for publication as well as take them through the publication process. The proposals are then run under WASHTED, hence building capacity and developing the centre.

There are quite a number of projects going on at the centre which makes it attract a lot of funding from diverse donors. Some of the major projects include Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE) which is coordinated by Dr. Tracy Morse. This has been implemented in Chikwawa with funding from DFID and is focusing on quite a number of areas. Under research, it is all about examining the effects of food safety and hygiene intervention on diarrhoea among under-five children. Kondwani Chidziwitso and Save Kumwenda are the research fellows on this project.

Under capacity building, the project supports various activities and some of them include PhDs, workshops, and Master’s Degree programs in colleges that are doing research. Another notable project is Water Sustainable Point of Use Treatment Technologies (WATERSPOUTT), which is locally coordinated by Kingsley Lungu and nationally by Dr. Tracy Morse. This is funded by the European Union. The current project—the £1.3 million Decentralization Renewable Energy Access for Malawi (DREAM) , is now expanding from Chikwawa to the districts of Ntcheu, Balaka and Dedza.

In order to alleviate lack of space in hospitals, WASHTED went on to develop a maternal health project in Chikwawa where waiting-rooms for patients’ guardians were constructed at the hospital. The project also built an HIV Unit at the district hospital, provided water facilities, and installed solar energy at different health facilities across the district. The solar energy is a big boost to people’s businesses.

WASHTED has also helped Luchenza City Council to come up with a plan in waste management, among many other projects.

Currently, the centre is working on a two-year project on whether to combine water and food hygiene, trying to see if this will lead to a reduction in diarrhoea as opposed to using Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) only.

WASHTED, as a centre, aims at conducting different projects across the country. Since its establishment in 2003, it has contributed a lot to changing the lives of people, especially in Chikwawa where the district has the lowest health indicators in the country.

Meanwhile, the people of Blantyre are going to benefit from WASHTED through a project the centre is set to implement.

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