The recent report on the study of predictors of open defecation among residents in the 47 counties in Kenya is probably the most devastating item one can spend time reading. The report has indicated that, out of the 47 counties, 15 of them have open defecation rates of more than 40 percent; about 5.6 million Kenyans engaging in the risky practice. The research also found out that, Turkana leads in the open defecation rates with over 88.4 percent of residents using open defecation.
The most shameful part of the findings is that, predictors of open defecation are issues that could be easily. According to John Njuguna and Charles Muruka; the forces behind this study, high poverty levels and culture among other factors contribute to an increase in the open defecation practices.
Open defecation involves people relieving themselves in bushes, water bodies and other open fields. This is a very bad habit, bearing in mind the health risk the practice poses to people. Poor sanitation usually plunges community members into a state of vulnerability to dangerous infections like cholera and diarrhea.
According to the report by Njuguna and Muruka; disabled people, girls and women are the most vulnerable to open defecation repercussions. This means that they stand a higher chance to contract diseases caused by poor sanitation practices. Women also have to put up with gender based violence in their aim to get sanitary facilities.
As expressed by World Health Organization (WHO), open defecation which is a great health hazard is a global sanitation crisis being practiced by over one billion people globally. The most heartbreaking news is that, the practice continues to gain popularity in sub-Saharan Africa while as its decreases in the developed countries.
Faecal matter dropped in water sources contaminates the water, leaving people to consume unsafe water. This exposes people to water related infections like cholera, diarrhea and hepatitis A. The researchers indicate that poor sanitation in most of the African countries lead to increased mortality rate, with a child dying every two and a half minutes.
High poverty levels have contributed to the rise in the open defecation practices and hence poor sanitation among poor community members. To properly handle this matter and decrease the open defecation practices, every stakeholder in the environment, water and health sectors should take position and handle this matter from all the dimensions.
It is time for citizens to be included in the development programs to ensure that they get enough money to support themselves and also invest in sanitation mechanisms. Through this, we will be able to fight challenges posing threat to their lives. There is no human life that is worth losing to preventable diseases like cholera and diarrhea.
Although Kenya is among the developing countries, the study report is not something to please anyone. As a country, we have to accept that there is a serious problem threatening our lives and explore on the ways to deal with the problem once and for all. The report should be a wakeup call to the government, private sectors and Kenyans at large to get out of the comfort zones and chart the way forward.
Forums to sensitize people on the need to enhance proper sanitation should be set up in different parts of the country. People should be educated on the health risks of open defecation and be empowered with resources to facilitate proper sanitation mechanisms.
National, county governments and private sectors should join hands to ensure that sanitation facilities are improved in both rural and urban areas. Modern sanitation facilities like toilets should be constructed near people and be trained on how to use them. This will help to reduce the number of people using open defecation.
Access to safe drinking water should also be made possible to ensure that the water being consumed by everyone is not contaminated. Water treatment and testing should be made mandatory before any amount of water is consumed. The exercise should be carried out across the country without any discrimination.
We should not just sit back, relax and assume that everything is okay when preventable diseases like cholera and hepatitis A continue to rob us of our loved ones. If we will manage to deal with sanitation challenges, then more than half of the viral diseases killing our people would be put off.