Alarm due to worrying state of sanitation in 47 districts

Mukuru Kwa Reuben slums in Nairobi where the walkways between shacks are impassable due to sewage. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Ministry of Water and Sanitation officials have raised a red flag over millions of Kenyans in 47 counties who still practice open defecation, raising fears of another outbreak of waterborne disease.

dr Andrew Tuimur, chief administrative secretary (CAS) for water and sanitation, said most of the 47 counties were alarmingly off course in providing safe sanitation.

“We are lagging behind when it comes to hygiene. Overall we’re at 26 percent in the country,” he said, adding that this puts the country at risk of another outbreak of waterborne diseases during the heavy rains.

An analysis of data from the 2019 census shows that over 4.3 million people in the country answer nature’s call in open places.

The 2019 national census report shows that Kwale County was worst-hit on the coast, with 291,387 people, or 31.7 percent of the population, missing either a latrine or toilet.

According to the report, Turkana has the highest number, 642,666, or 68.1 percent of its population, who heed nature’s call in open fields.

Samburu had 203,336 inhabitants, Tana River 154,628, Marsabit 222,424, Wajir 347,256, West Pokot 262,145, Mandera 342,312 and Garissa 323,252.

But Nyeri, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga, Nairobi, Muranga, Kirinyaga and Embu had the fewest people relieving themselves in the open fields.

Open defecation is the disposal of human feces in fields, forests, bushes, open waters like the sea, beaches and other open places or with solid wastes.

Director of hygiene management at the ministry, Eng Fidelis Kyengo, said Kwale is among the top ten counties with the highest percentage of households practicing open defecation.

He said eight out of 25 households in Kwale County still practice open defecation. Kyengo said Samburu, Lunga Lunga and Kingango sub-districts have the lowest sanitary coverage

“The situation (sanitation and hygiene) is still dire. It has affected learning in some schools where girls have dropped out. A lot needs to be done,” Kyengo said in an interview.

However, the Kwale executive committee responsible for water and saturation, Mr Martin Kuya, said “things have improved significantly since 2019” but lamented delays in the implementation of water projects.

“I am aware of the report on sanitation in Kwale but things are not as bad as they used to be. The biggest problem is the water supply because latrines need to have water,” Kuya said.

He said several latrines have been built in schools and other public areas through support for household hygiene under (UBSUP) and the Water Sanitation and Trust Fund (WSTF).

Coast Water Works Development Agency (CWWDA) chief executive officer Eng Martin Tsuma said implementation of the Kwale town water supply rehabilitation and expansion project, which has been delayed by six months, will soon resume.

“We know the sanitation issue in Kwale is bad, but all stakeholders will come together to unlock the project by addressing the issues that have caused this delay,” said Eng Tsuma.

In Mombasa, the Ministry of Water also rehabilitated the Kipevu Sewage Treatment Plant and pooled it in Mombasa’s western mainland at a cost of about Sh280 million.

“We expect the project to be completed by November this year. After its completion, it will serve about 17,000 residents of Kipevu,” said Dr. Andrew Tuimur.

Tuimur said hygiene is a big problem not only on the coast but across the country. “We’re a bit behind in terms of hygiene,” he said.

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