Public health drives can boost sanitation

A worker fetches water from a tap at Nyeri Water and Sanitation Company treatment plant on July 18. percent. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI

Local non-profit, AMREF, last week marked a first in the local health sector through its collaboration with the public health officers and technicians on provision of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training in sanitation marketing. This builds up on their previous engagements in the Water and Sanitation Hygiene WASH ecosystem programmes like FINISH-INK, that promote and market sanitation facility models linking interested clients to financiers, local sanitation product suppliers and artisans.

If you grew up in Nairobi in the defunct City Commission’s era, you might have noted waste, cleaning and water functions were co-ordinated at the ward level. Such offices still stand in many City Council estates on Juja Road, Outering, Ngara, Woodley, Parklands and in the CBD.

With time though, as Nairobi inhabitants increased, these services became casualties of dwindling finances leading to a cessation of service provision. To get a rough extent of the current problem, count the number of clogged drainages, burst sewer lines, leaking water pipes and garbage dumps along your commute roads.

AMREF’s new market based approach moves away from the philanthropy model and creates an opportunity to showcase how to bring change through sustainable financing from the “markets”. Public Health Officers (PHOs) and Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) are frontline custodians in prevention of illness and promotion of healthy lifestyles. Yet looking at gains Kenya has made through devolution, their participation is not as strong.

As data’s relevance gets increasingly actionable, a similar situation to devolution is needed if WASH data is to work to improve the city’s services? Nairobi County should adopt this crucial evidence based approach and escalation of daily insights from CHVs and PHOs at ward levels for decision making organs.

For many of our urban informal settlement where health services and complications are met by county governments, addressing such obstacles is crucial.

Data on how many households are in a ward, what is their occupancy, how is their safe water access situation and what barriers do they have to safe clean water and sanitation services are relevant.

A direct link between poor sanitation and hygiene and economic expenditure is visible. In one analysis modelling spread of, Helicobacter Pylori through food handlers, a high risk of infections on exposure was noted and tied in to WASH deficits.

Depending on which facility one visits, average treatment cost for H. Pylori eradication is Sh28,372 at a high end facility and about Sh9,218 for mid-level facilities.

Recurring exposure on ingestion of contaminated foods means these costs may be incurred a several times annually. Regardless of where you live, a WASH problem in any corner of the city is also right at your home and kitchen.

This new approach will equip WASH organisations, city planners, water and sewerage service companies and vendors of sanitation products, materials and services with more accurate insights to target the ecosystem.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.