As one enters South Cemetery in Nakuru Town, acrid smell from human and animal waste greets visitors.
Lying only 10 meters from the sprawling Manyani slum, the cemetery is an epitome of poor urban planning. The cemetery lacks basic amenities like toilets and clean water and mourners are forced to hire tents.
The cemetery has no gate. Overgrown sisal plants dot the cemetery that is quickly running out of space.
According to the County Chief Officer in charge of Public Health Samuel King’ori, only half an acre is remaining before the cemetery is filled up.
But some graves are less than six feet deep as they are recycled.
“I am horrified. It’s hard to locate a grave of your loved one,” said Mr John Githinji who buried his mother at the cemetery 10 years ago.
The livestock are having a field day as they feed on fresh flowers on the graves.
Plastic bottles lie all over while those that are not blown by the wind remain trapped on broken wooden crosses on the graves.
The once regarded as the cemetery for the poor, no longer carries the embarrassing tag, thanks to the filled up Nakuru North Cemetery.
The cemetery is a health hazard waiting to explode.
Mourners who visit the facility to burry their loved ones, should count themselves lucky for walking home without contracting diseases.
The decomposing human and livestock waste dot the cemetery. The cemetery has no toilet and the only available is in a mess.
The toilet at the corner of the cemetery was constructed 15 years ago.
“Can you imagine elderly people or those in wheel chairs trying to look for a toilet? It would be a mission impossible. It’s disappointing,” said a mourner.
“The toilet block is not well maintained,” said a mourner. A resident of the neighbouring Manyani slum has dug pit latrine which he charges Sh10.
“It’s so annoying and shameful to see mourners struggle to hide under overgrown sisal plants to relieve themselves,” said another mourner.
“This is probably one of the worst kept cemeteries I have ever visited in Kenya,” lamented another mourner.
A mourner from Kisii County who had come to bury his in-law said it was shameful to see people answer calls of nature in the open.
“Poor sanitation can lead cholera,” said Mr David Onyancha.
The cemetery toilet is littered with human waste and clogged with used condoms. The toilet has no doors nor windows and thus no privacy to users.
“It is depressing to see mourners subjected to suffering,” said another mourner.
Interestingly, the health budget allocation by Nakuru County government is getting bigger every year. The health department has been allocated a whooping Sh6.6 billion this financial year.
“Nakuru is a free open defecation zone and improvement of sanitation facilities will be useful barometer to gauge development progress. Creating wealth without health is of little consequence,” said Mr Harry Mathuku.
Open defecation happens almost on a daily basis as not a single day passes without a burial at the cemetery.
The filth at the cemetery is putting slum dwellers, and especially children in danger of contracting diseases.
Mr George Odhiambo raised the issue of flies and their role in oral faecal transmission.
“Flies can transfer faecal material to the food in sold to mourners at the cemetery,” he explained.
“Everyone visiting this cemetery is not safe, Nakuru County government should address the issue.”
“This cemetery has no gate and our children who stroll inside as they look for valuables step on faeces,” said Mr Charles Gichimu.
Lack of toilets at the cemetery is an abuse to human dignity.
“This cemetery raises the issue of safety and dignity particularly for women and girls,” said Ms Alicen Chepchumba.
“Lack of sanitation is an example of how the county is taking the lives of its residents for granted,” said Mr Martin Mukhwaya.
Sadly, it generates some income to the devolved unit as children’ graves are charged Sh2,000 while Sh3,000 is paid for adults.
Dr King’ori said the county has set aside Sh15 million for the refurbishment of cemeteries in the current financial year.
“We shall put up mobile toilets in collaboration with the locals and private investors and in the next two months the toilets will be ready,” asserted Dr King’ori.”