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Malawi: Toilet troubles, a schoolgirl's story

When you are an amputee, the simple act of going to the toilet can be fraught with difficulty. For nine-year-old Hadija, from Mzuzu in the north of Malawi, using the pit latrine at her school was a daily struggle. Today, following the installation of an accessible toilet at her school as part of an EU-funded peri-urban water, sanitation and hygiene project, Hadija once again wakes up excited to go to school.

Hadija stands with her walking stick

Imagine being a nine-year-old schoolgirl, with only one leg to support yourself after having the other amputated following a road traffic accident. Now imagine that you attend a public school with only a few dirty pit latrines. You have no option but to use them.

Of course, with only one leg and a long walking stick to support yourself, using a pit latrine is easier said than done. More often than not, you end up with mess on yourself from the dirty toilet. Just imagine. Would you be itching to go to school every day, knowing you faced such an unpleasant experience every time you needed to use the toilet?

Unfortunately, this has been the reality Hadija has woken up to for the past three years of her life, after she was maimed in a traffic accident in 2012.

Everyday challenges

Losing a leg changed everything for Hadija, both at home and at school. And, she says, the previously simple act of using the pit latrine was one of the biggest challenges she faced.

“Once I went to the toilet on my own. As I was trying hard to adjust and use the toilet I tumbled and the next thing I realised was that my stick was nowhere to be seen. It had fallen into the latrine,” Hadija lamented.

As a result, Hadija missed classes for a month as her parents struggled to get her another crutch.

“It was not easy for Hadija,” says her teacher Veronica. “Sometimes her friends would escort her to the toilet and hold her, because there are times when the toilets get really dirty.”

Doing it alone

But relying on others to help was not a suitable solution, and after struggling for over a year, Hadija’s plight came to an end when Plan International Malawi, with funding from the European Commission and Plan Netherlands, built an ecological sanitation latrine at her school, including an accessible latrine for disabled students like Hadija.

“Now I don’t need anyone to help me out at the toilet. I go there on my own and no longer worry about the dirty toilets or losing my stick. Now I wake up looking forward to going to school, unlike in the past,” Hadija says happily.

Achieving ambitions

According to her teacher, Hadija is a bright student who has great potential. And now that she is able to attend school comfortably, Hadija is intent or realising her ambitions.

“I would like to be a doctor and help people suffering from various diseases,” says Hadija. “I would like to be able to support my mother and grandmother, since my father, who used to support us, died in a road accident last year,” she adds. 


For more information about Plan International's work in Malawi go to

For more information about Plan Netherland's work go to

For more information about the work of the European Commission's International Cooperation and Development Directorate General, please click here.

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