The head of community strategy in the Ministry of Health Dr Salim Ali Hussein issues an Open Defecation-Free certificate to a village elder in Naivasha. In Kenya, over 8 million Kenyans lack proper toilets. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP
By Rachel Kibui, the Daily Nation
November 19, 2015 may have passed many people in Kenya without notice of its importance in the global calendar.
This was the World Toilet Day, a date set aside to raise global awareness on the struggle faced by close to 2.5 billion people living without access to proper sanitation.
In Kenya, it is estimated that over eight million people lack proper toilet facilities leading to open defecation.
In Nakuru County, the day was marked in a village in Naivasha known as Maraigushu, where 28 villages were declared open deification-free.
The head of community strategy in the ministry of Health Dr Salim Ali Hussein said despite sanitation being included in the Millennium Development Goals, achieving real gains in sanitation coverage has been slow.
The severe impact of this situation on human health is diarrhoea which kills over 1.5 million children worldwide each year.
Of this number, 88 per cent of the deaths are attributed to faecal contamination from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
"Thus, lack of sanitation continues to be an enormous human health and environmental problem in the developing world," Mr Hussein said.
The theme of this year's toilet day was: ‘Toilets and Health: Better Sanitation for Better Nutrition.’
An Open Defecation-Free certificate. Nakuru is
An Open Defecation-Free certificate. Nakuru is ranked second best out of 47 counties in the country’s sanitation benchmarking by the Ministry of Health. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP
More than eight million Kenyans still defecate in the open which results in high prevalence of diseases such as diarrhoea, amoeba, typhoid and cholera.
In Nakuru County, according to the public health officer Samuel King'ori, campaigns would be intensified among people who do not have access to adequate sanitation to achieve the goal by 2018.
The county targets campaigns which would lead to declare rural areas open defecation free by 2018.
Nakuru County celebrated 72 out of 1,690 villages which have now eliminated open defecation free.
Mr King’ori said 30 per cent of Nakuru residents, translating to 360,000 households had no toilets this year.
He said Naivasha Sub-County was leading in meeting sanitation challenges.
Villages which had achieved open-defecation-free status were awarded certificates by the Ministry of Health.
Nakuru is ranked second best out of 47 counties in the country’s sanitation benchmarking by the Ministry of Health with Nyeri leading.
Countrywide statistics indicate that 55 per cent of Kenyans have no access to toilets. Only five per cent of Kenyans wash their hands using soap.
The county, according to a media release by USAID, loses Sh978 million each year as a results of premature deaths, healthcare costs and productivity due to poor sanitation.
Besides the cost, other effects of poor sanitation provision include water pollution and negative effects on tourism especially when outbreak of diseases threaten the lives of visitors into the county.
A recent cholera outbreak in the county killed 17 people while a total of 5,049 contracted the disease, which is associated with poor hygiene.
According to the USAID report, about 51 percent of children in Nakuru are stunted as a result of poor sanitation in the county.
Poor sanitation and open defecation, USAID says, have been linked to low height for age scores in children.
“Stunted children suffer a higher mortality due to infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and measles as well as being more likely to have poorer cognitive and educational outcomes,” the report adds.
Stakeholders in Nakuru including USAID, UNICEF, Umande Trust, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Company, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), Water and Sanitation Programme, among others, have joint programmes for improving sanitation in the county.
With support from WSUP, the county has developed a sanitation Bill, which proposes a fund for service improvement.