Kenya's renewed effort to end open defecation by 2030

The key focus is on the 15 high burden counties with OD rates of more than 10 per cent

In Summary

•According to the ministry, 9.9 million people drink directly from contaminated surface water sources and an estimated five million people practice open defecation

•The ministry seeks to ensure behavioural change is fostered, improved construction and utilisation of clean latrines and promote safe treatment and disposal of waste

An illustration of a person practicing Open Defecation
An illustration of a person practicing Open Defecation

The Ministry of Health has renewed efforts to end open defecation to ensure the country becomes Open Defecation free by 2030.

Despite the country having made significant progress in improving sanitation services, it is estimated that 8.5 per cent of Kenya’s population still practiced OD as of 2022.

The key focus is on the 15 high burden counties with OD rates of more than 10 per cent; mostly the Arid and Semi-Arid counties.

They include Turkana, Samburu, Tana River, Marsabit, Wajir, West Pokot, Mandera, Garissa, Kwale, Baringo, Isiolo, Narok, Homa Bay, Kilifi and Kajiado.

This week, the ministry and partners such as Unicef, the Council of Governors and county CECs launched the Kenya Costed Sanitation and Hand Hygiene Roadmap 2023 – 2030 and guidelines for rural sanitation and hygiene.

The ministry aims to promote behavioral change, enhance the construction and proper use of clean latrines, and advocate for the safe treatment and disposal of waste.

It also seeks to foster sustained handwashing practices, ensure food hygiene, promote safe water handling, and maintain clean home environments.

According to the ministry's findings, approximately 9.9 million people directly consume water from contaminated surface sources, while an estimated five million people engage in open defecation.

Only 25 per cent have hand-washing facilities with soap and water at home.

“These practices have been identified as leading causes of diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, and other waterborne illnesses,” Ag Health DG Patrick Amoth said.

“Tragically, these diseases claim a considerable number of lives in Kenya each year, with a disproportionate impact on children under the age of five,” he noted.

An estimated 25 per cent of rural communities in Kenya are already certified as Open Defecation free while 40 per cent use unimproved toilet facilities that do not provide adequate hygiene benefits.

For some rural population, transport and treatment services are unavailable should the toilets begin to be filled up as most fecal sludge treatment facilities are in major cities and towns.

In contrast to the Asal challenges, 26 counties have successfully reduced their OD rates to less than four per cent.

These low burden counties, according to health experts, have generally better economic conditions which means a proportion of the population can afford to purchase sanitation products and services.

Ministry data shows 11 counties have moderate OD burden which include Lamu, Laikipia, Migori, Kitui, Elgeyo Marakwet, Siaya, Kisumu, Busia, Bungoma, Meru and Kakamega while the rest of the counties are classified as low OD burden with rates of less than 2.5 per cent.

“Our efforts align seamlessly with the broader goal of Universal Health Coverage,” the PS Public Health Mary Muthoni said.

“We believe that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location, should have access to essential sanitation services,” she added.

A 2021 joint report by the World Health Organisation and Unicef showed that while most schools are estimated to have a certain type of toilet, at least six per cent of schools in the rural parts of the country do not have any sanitation facility.

The report further showed that many healthcare facilities do not have functional latrines and hand-washing stations and soap.

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