One of the concerned business operators confided to this publication that there was only one toilet serving all SMEs and once that toilet got closed due to lack of maintenance, they were offered no alternative and some have resorted to relieve themselves behind the closed toilet which is compromising sanitation of the place.
"This is contrary to expected standards the place ought to have as it is undoubtedly a hub of various small and medium enterprises," said an observer.
However in an interview on Monday, MCCCI publicist, Millie Kasunda when asked on why they let businesses operate without proper sanitary facilities at such a bustling business centre, she was elusive with answers and demanded that we disclose sources of our story.
The defunct toilet at Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds
However, a restaurant operator who asked for anonymity said in an interview that the place has no readily available toilets for business operators and their customers. She said COMESA Hall sanitary facilities are not open to the public unless there’s a conference or a wedding.
"We don't have toilets here. We just relieve ourselves behind trees or walls. Nzosapatsa ulemu, Kulibe toilet kuno," she said.
She wondered what authorities think as regards sanitation and hygiene of the place.
"As restaurant owners we operate our businesses under difficult circumstances. We don’t have proper sanitary facilities here. To answer the call of nature we go to Chichiri Shopping Complex and use sanitary facilities there and you can appreciate it’s a waste of time on our part to walk that distance that’s why others just relieve themselves behind buildings,” she explained.
One of the waitresses said normally when they come to work at the Trade Fair Grounds, they panick as the environment is not women-friendly.
"Women who work here most of the times just bend over there and urinate. It’s shameful. We need toilets for the privacy of our customers and ourselves. Otherwise sanitation is compromised as people urinate anyhow here,” she said.
A customer, Kenneth Banda from Zomba said he felt greatly inconvenienced when he inquired from one of the restaurant owners about toilets only to be told there’s none.
Banda called upon key stakeholders of the place, MCCCI and Blantyre City Assembly to consider constructing sanitary facilities as the current situation is quite deplorable.
In a phone -interview Anthony Kasunda, who speaks for Blantyre City Council acknowledged the situation and said temporarily business operators have been allowed to use COMESA Hall sanitary facilities while they are finding a lasting solution to the issue at hand.
“ We are aware of the situation, currently as a remedial measure COMESA Hall sanitary facilities have been opened up to ease the pressure,” said Kasunda.
COMESA Hall sanitary facilities not free-for-all
According to UN Data, in Sub Saharan Africa 220 million people practice open defecation. Collaborative efforts on Sustainable Development Goal number 6, seek to reverse the numbers to zero by 2030.