The three ‘H’s: Home-made soap, handwashing and hygiene

United Purpose | Rachel Dixon from United Purpose Malawi, on 09/09/2017 01:13 AEST

Residents of Mtoliwa village in Phalombe District, southern Malawi, have constructed latrines with drop-hole covers, hand washing facilities and descent structures. As a result of sensitisation on hygiene, they have also constructed ‘tippy tappy’ hand washing facilities, recognising the importance of hand washing to their health.

However, instead of soap, the community used to use ash to clean their hands.

Ash, although effective to a small extent in removing physical dirt, has no antibacterial properties and is not effective in combatting the spread of water borne diseases. Due to the high cost of soap, ash used to be the only option for community members wishing to improve their hygiene practices.

A committee was trained by United Purpose (UP) to grow jatropha seeds. Jatrophra trees produce seeds, and the oil released from the seeds contain antibacterial properties that can be used to make soap. Once UP had trained the committee in soap production, they distributed jatropha soap to all 123 households in Mtoliwa village.

Mr Levison Chikomesa, one of the beneficiaries who lives in Mtoliwa village, narrates the benefits of the Jatropha soap “soap made from Jatropha seed oil kills germs, it is also relatively cheap since it is made locally compared to other soap from shops made from industries and we also use the soap for bathing and washing household utensils such as plate”.

Mtoliwa village has undergone a transformation in their sanitation and hygiene practices: most residents now have improved latrines with descent structures, drop-hole covers and hand washing facilities with soap. The community is already witnessing the great impact of these developments on the wellbeing and development of the village, as people are ill less and have more time to engage in productive activities.