World Toilet Day: How to accelerate access to improved sanitation in Kenya

Approximately 700 children under five years die every day because of diarrhoea

In Summary

• According to the UN, globally, approximately 700 children under five years die every day because of diarrhoea that is linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and poor hygiene.

• According to Unicef, Kenya is one of the 26 countries in the world contributing to 90 per cent of open defecation in the world. 

This day celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion people living without access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene.
This day celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion people living without access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene.
Image: THE STAR

Every year on November 19th, the World celebrates World Toilet Day.

This day was created to inspire actions to tackle the Global Sanitation crisis and help achieve the targets of the United Nations’ Global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 6.

This year’s theme is as appropriate as any sanitation theme could be, “Valuing Toilets”.

This day celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion people living without access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene.

This day follows hot on the heels of the Global Handwashing Day which is celebrated on the 15th of October.

The depressing statistic yet according to the United Nations is that, globally, approximately 700 children under five years die every day because of diarrhoea that is linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and poor hygiene.

According to Unicef, Kenya is one of the 26 countries in the world contributing to 90 per cent of open defecation in the world.

Although progress has been made in Kenya to eliminate open defecation, we are still moving at a very slow pace to achieve targets set in Kenya’s Vision 2030 and SDG 6.

At the launch of the Kenya Sanitation Alliance this Wednesday, the Acting Director of Health, Dr Patrick Amoth, stated that we still have 4.7 million people in Kenya still practising open defecation and within the current efforts to address this issue, we are only likely to achieve open defecation status in 2053.

Over 85 per cent of open defecation in Kenya takes place in 15 counties (high burden Counties) and six counties have rates exceeding 40 per cent.

So how do we accelerate access to improved Sanitation and Hygiene in Kenya?

The answer is far from simple, but there are at least four things we can do:

  • Information, Education and Communication: as a start, targeting the 15 high burden Counties with increased Information, Education and Communication (IEC) on the importance of ending open defecation, using improved toilets and practicing proper hygiene. There is still a big percentage of rural and peri-urban communities who still lack proper information to enable them to understand the link between open defecation and diarrheal diseases. Behaviour change in any health problems has been shown to have a positive impact on health. In our IEC campaigns, aside from understanding the link between lack of toilets and disease, substantial impact on behaviour change sometimes comes from equating the health problems to the economic implications to the community – how much money is lost through sanitation related illnesses and how open defecation affects impacts on the government and partners’ expenditure health sector. Targeted IEC could also address some cultural beliefs and concerns related to toilet use.
  • Encourage the private sector to invest in water, sanitation and hygiene: the Government’s strategic engagement of the Private Sector has shown in the past to be a driver to accelerating increase in resources to address pressing challenges as has been shown a few years ago during the drought response, the “Kenyans for Kenya” campaign in response to drought national disaster in North-Eastern Kenya. Private Sector organizations that have annual Corporate Social Responsibility budgets can use those resources to support interventions to increase access to safe Sanitation and Hygiene. If the same concerted efforts to engage the private sector can be coordinated to encourage the private sector to prioritize investments in rural and peri-urban population’s access to safe water, improved toilets for schools and communities, achievement of SDG 6 targets in Kenya could be sooner rather than later. Corporate organizations with these budgets should be encouraged and incentivized to use these resources, working with Ministry of Health and relevant stakeholders, to invest in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities and services.
  • Make access easy: increased Government expenditure on Sanitation, Sanitation financing options from the Private Sector and Government incentives to organizations providing innovative Sanitation and Hygiene solutions targeting rural and peri-urban communities could also increase access. It is encouraging that some financial institutions have introduced sanitation loans as part of their product portfolios (like the Kenya Women Finance Trust) but for us to have an accelerated impact, we need more institutions to embrace this. Organizations investing resources in Sanitation Research and Development towards providing innovative and affordable rural and peri-urban sanitation and hygiene products and solutions need incentives like tax rebates and recognition and to create an environment for more innovative companies and social enterprises in sanitation and hygiene to thrive.
  • Maintenance of existing toilets: lastly, there is need to develop a plan on maintenance of Sanitation facilities, especially in schools and other public facilities. Many of the facilities in places like markets and schools are not well maintained soon after they have been handed over to the beneficiaries because of a lack of a proper maintenance plan and this discourages the use of these facilities taking us back to open defecation. Sustainability of Sanitation and Hygiene facilities greatly depend on a proper cleaning and maintenance plans including faecal sludge management when toilets are full.

 

Fredrick Nyambare, MPH

Leader, Partnerships – SATO/LIXIL Africa