The cholera outbreak in Nairobi could become a full blown epidemic if urgent measures as not put in place to contain its further spread, especially in informal settlements.
A spot check by the 'Nation' along Outering Road in Embakasi, revealed that roadside food eateries and food vendors, mostly in the open and close to overflowing sewer trenches, were still in operation despite a directive by City Hall that such joints be closed.
In Pipeline, Kware and Dohnholm estates, despite the dusty road and burst sewer lines following the ongoing road construction, food handlers prepare food and serve customers oblivious of the dangers and risks they are being exposed to.
Some of the foods being prepared in the open include githeri, samosa, chapatis, meat stew, ndengu, mutura, scones, soup, and roast meat among other foods.
Interestingly, there are no public toilets along the stretch of the road from Taj Mall to Donholm.
Hawking of such foods is a common practice in all city estates most common being chips and roast maize.
According to one of the residents of Pipeline estate, Peter Simiyu, they have had no water for a long time after pipes were damaged by the Chinese company constructing the road.
“We have not had water since February in Pipeline after pipes were damaged by the ongoing construction we depend on water from vendors,” said a visibly agitated Mr Simiyu.
He said that he cannot eat food from the roadside as the hygiene levels are wanting and fears there could be an uncontrollable cholera outbreak.
This is not the first time the county has banned food vendors but no action seems to be taken to implement such directives.
A county official said that the illegal food handlers and hawkers hide in the county toilets for fear of being arrested.
On Friday last week the Nairobi County Executive for health Bernard Muia said they have stopped food hawking and open air cooking in the city as a measure to contain cholera spread.
“We are having a challenge because of the mushrooming open air cooking in different parts of the city,” said Dr Muia.
Also, those affected include outside catering service providers where the county has directed all caterers to liase with environmental health department before providing services.
The county has also promised to swiftly respond to sewer bursts which update has not been effected.
A walk across different city streets, one will not fail to notice overflowing trenches and burst sewer line spewing effluents to pavements, a serious risk.
Dr Muia complained that City Hall also faces challenges in regulation due to lack of guidelines on licensing food catering service providers and those transport different types of foods.
“We depend on vendors though we do not know where they get the water from,” Mr Simiyu said.
At Muthurwa and neighbouring Gikomba market, food sellers did not seem aware of the devolved unit’s directive.
Customers helped themselves to fries, chapatis and mutura.
Outside Wakulima market, handcart operators openly sold water melons and other fruits, occasionally dashing for cover on spotting a county government van.
A top county official said stopping the food business was difficult since the traders usually engaged askaris in a cat-and-mouse game.