Poor Sanitation in Kenya Leads to Water-Borne Diseases

SEATTLE, Washington — Water sanitation still remains a critical issue in Kenya. At least 81% of the population lives without proper access to safe sanitation. Due to improper sanitation in Kenya, many are exposed to multiple diseases, including typhoid fever and cholera. Most homes cannot afford a private bathroom. As a result, women often prefer to dispose of their excrement in plastic bags to avoid the dangers of going to the public toilets. The lack of resources and low-tech waste removal systems are major issues regarding why Kenyans in the slums are exposed to improper sanitation. However, there has been progress in reducing the population there to enforce safer living conditions, but the progress is slow. Recent natural disasters involving water scarcity have also caused refugee displacement throughout the country.

Unsafe Living Conditions

In the slums, diarrhea is said to be a child killer, killing almost “one in five children before their fifth birthday.” This is an issue not only in the slums but also in schools. Schools are now being shut down due to flooding. Worrying about contracting water-borne diseases is at an all-time high.

With a billion people being exposed to unsafe living conditions, organizations are using water projects to provide access to wells and better conditions. Some studies have found that straining water through a cloth is effective in reducing pathogens and harmful bacteria that causes cholera.

Cholera Prevention

Cholera outbreaks spread rapidly and cause many deaths. If left untreated, the disease leads to severe dehydration and death in people with compromised immune systems. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to respond to cholera by improving sanitation in Kenya.

Cholera has a large potential for spreading, which is why fast responses to cases are vital. The CDC has created training materials for global use to facilitate real response situations. Epidemiology training allows quick responses to outbreaks and helps save lives. Kenya has implemented workshops to prevent the spread of such water-borne diseases. This practical training has prevented cases from turning into widespread outbreaks.

Coalition Against Typhoid

Typhoid kills approximately 200,000 people each year and affects 21 million. It occurs after consuming tainted food and water. Vaccinations and education help the people of Kenya to prevent typhoid outbreaks. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped create the Coalition against Typhoid (CaT) in 2010 to prevent typhoid in many regions through education, research and advocacy. This includes providing access to clean water and sustainable solutions to typhoid as well as vaccines for vulnerable populations.

Around 23% of members of the Coalition against Typhoid “are based in Africa” where they witness firsthand what the infection is and why it is spreading. CaT hosts an international conference every two years to prevent and inform the public on the harmful infectious disease. This helps to shed light on the harmful issue and instills knowledge of care for those who attend so they can advocate for better prevention. Building a coalition has raised awareness about the spread of the disease by increasing the public’s awareness and providing hope for those in need.

WaterSchool Projects

WaterSchool is a nonprofit that has partnered with other local organizations to provide solutions. Solar disinfection purifies water, turning contaminated water into clean drinking water. It can destroy 99.99% of bacteria and pathogens. This limits the number of bacteria in the water and helps Kenyans stay safe from cholera. It also improves water accessibility “without drilling any new water wells in Africa or building complicated infrastructure.”

Building handwashing stations to increase simple hygiene is another way sanitation in Kenya is improving. Creating the habit of regular handwashing is an essential way of improving quality of life. Cleaning food for consumption is another way to prevent diseases like cholera from spreading.

Recent Progress

Globally, open defecation rates have reduced by 22 million per year from 1.23 billion to 892 million. There is a direct link between poverty and not having access to proper sanitation. Sanitation interventions lower the risk of diarrhea “between 27% and 53% in children” five years old and younger. Kenya hopes to improve its sanitation and plans to achieve open defecation free status by 2030. Improving sanitation in Kenya will also improve poverty.

Joelle Shusterman
Photo: Flickr


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