What’s in a toilet?
A toilet is such a basic sanitation facility and now in the 21st century, 56 years after independence; it still baffles me that Kenya has no free and accessible public toilets, much worse in the capital, consequently, the government keeps spending more money to treat diseases like cholera and diarrhea.
Sanitation is a basic necessity that contributes to better human health, dignity and quality of life, however, in Kenya basic sanitation services are not accessible to the majority of the population.
Lack of toilets continue to threaten our water sources and undermine human dignity.
Inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene is the norm in Nairobi, which has made Cholera outbreaks the order of the day in the country and hardly does three months go by without cholera outbreak alerts issued by various county governments across the country.
Recently, there was a cholera outbreak in Nairobi County, which affected various estates and even the Nairobi hospital, where several staff members were left hospitalized.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 750,000 people die worldwide every year from waterborne diseases, the vast majority of them little children under 5 years old.
Approximately 19,500 Kenyans, including 17,100 children under the age of five years are dying each year from diarrhoea – nearly 90 percent directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Diarrhoeal diseases are also one of the top five leading causes of deaths and disabilities in the country.
Health, Environment and Dignity
Kenya’s sanitation challenge requires urgent intervention and top among these should be the provision of toilets.
Kenya is one of the countries that did not achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets for increasing access to water and sanitation as well as the national targets enshrined in the Vision 2030 and we should not fall off track once again in the Sustainable development goals (SDGs) as far as goal 6 “Clean Water and Sanitation” goes .
It is estimated that with the current acceleration rate, it will take Kenya another 133 years to achieve universal sanitation coverage, while the global Target is to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation by 2030.
19 million people in Kenya don’t have access to toilets
According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization, 54 percent of the population (19 million people) in Kenya do not have access to a latrine, while some 10 million ‘have to answer the call of nature in the open fields or bushes’ (the Coast, Eastern, Nyanza and Rift valley provinces have the highest number of open defecators).
Open defecation costs the country US$ 88 million per year yet eliminating the practice would require less than 1.2 million latrines to be built.
Banks and Supermarkets Ordered to Provide Toilets for Clients
The responsibility for sanitation and hygiene in institutions cuts across public and private sectors and banks and supermarkets in the country have failed miserably in their role to provide toilets for their clients, save for the institutions located in shopping malls.
In 2016, The Director of Public Health, Kepha Ombacho, ordered supermarkets, banks and all public and private institutions to provide their customers with sanitation facilities but in the typical Kenyan fashion, the directive was never enforced.
Last week Kenyan hosted the first UN-Habitat assembly whose theme was “Innovation for Better Quality of Life in Cities and Communities” and one of the key areas of focus was on waste management, given that two thirds of the global population is expected to live in cities by 2030, which means that governments have to plan adequately in order to meet the demands of basic services, key among them sanitation.
In Kenya, more than 60 percent of Kenyans will be living in cities and towns by 2030.
According to the UN-Habitat, in line with SDG 11, which aims to make cities and Human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, the battle for achieving the sustainable goals will be won or lost in the cities.
“Contributing about 80% of global GDP, cities function as catalysts, driving innovation, consumption and investment worldwide,” UN-Habitat executive director’s said in a statement.
The focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has now shifted from just addressing access to sanitation facilities but to sustainable safe waste management solutions and Kenya needs to fix the current state of sanitation in Nairobi especially before the anticipated population boom in urban areas.
Economic Cost Of Poor Sanitation
Kenya loses an estimated KES 27 billion (USD 365 million) annually which is about one percent of the national GDP, due to poor sanitation.
More than half of the population, is at risk of diseases and death, with over 75 percent of the country’s disease burden caused by poor personal hygiene, inadequate sanitation practices and unsafe drinking water.
According to the Ministry Of Health, with an increased acceleration rate of about 3 to 5 percent per year from the current rate of 0.75 percent, Kenya can achieve the universal access to improved sanitation target by the year 2030.
NB: This article was first published by the Kenya Forum Online