Heavy rains expose Kenya’s sanitation and hygiene crisis

Photo credit: Design by Stanslaus Mwanthi | Compiled by John Waweru | Nation Media Group

Rains-caused flooding in Kenya has left a trail of death and destruction in its path, raising the alarm on the country’s disaster preparedness.

Official figures estimate more than 100 Kenyans have lost their lives across the country with the Mai-Mahiu gully burst alone claiming close to 50 lives.

The tragedy that occurred in the wee hours of Monday piled pressure on the government, coming less than a day after a boat capsized in Tana River killing more than 20 people.

Nairobi, the economic heartbeat of the country, has not been spared either by the deadly deluge with the floods attacking slums and posh estates while closing highways.

City officials have blamed the poor drainage while responding to residents' complaints over poor urban design and planning.

Johnson Sakaja, the governor of the County of Nairobi, in a radio interview attributed the flooding to construction of walls and apartments on water pathways but admitted to limitation in capacity to deal with the disaster.

The downpour that led to the government postponing reopening of schools by a week has also raised key questions on the sanitation of affected counties.

Photo credit: Design by Stanslaus Mwanthi | Compiled by John Waweru | Nation Media Group

Data published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) revealed that Northern Kenya counties — among the worst hit by floods — have the least population with access to basic sanitation.

Turkana is the worst with only nine percent of its population accessing basic sanitation while 70 percent are on open defecation.

Other counties on open defecation include Tana River (55.2pc), Samburu (52.6) and Marsabit (41.6).

The rains pounding the country have caused floods in some of these counties, compromising water safety, sanitation and hygiene, thus exposing residents to waterborne diseases such as cholera.

Boreholes, shallow wells and water pans are the primary water sources in these counties. According to ACAPS, due to floods and storms, three boreholes and 230 latrines were damaged in Wajir last year.

A large proportion of people in these counties consumes untreated water, hitting 80 percent in Turkana, Marsabit (81.8), Wajir (94.5) and Tana River (87.2) among others.

Contaminated water and lack of access to sanitation facilities gave heightened the risk of outbreak of waterborne diseases.

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