When nature calls, people need toilets. Yet, many cannot access them.
Today, November 19, marks World Toilet Day. According to the Ministry of Health statistics, approximately six million Kenyans lack access to sanitation facilities such as toilets. They therefore practice open defecation in bushes, forests or grasslands.
The faeces, urine and other forms of human waste pollute the environment and turn it into an open sewer that exposes people - especially children - to deadly diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.
Such hygiene and poor sanitation challenges – especially the lack of toilets - contribute heavily to malnutrition and stunted growth among children below five years, hence making them vulnerable to childhood diseases like malaria and pneumonia.
To address this problem, World Vision Kenya in partnership with the Ministry of Health has rolled out the initiative; Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).
The initiative seeks to eliminate open defecation in different parts of the country by sensitising communities on the importance of using toilets so as to prevent environmental pollution and curb the spread of diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and dysentery.
ROLE OF CHILDREN
Children can play a key role in ensuring that households adhere to recommended hygiene and sanitation practises.
For instance, one of the approaches used by CLTS is teaching the children songs that condemn open defecation. This has seen more children practising good hygiene in toilet use as well as pressuring their parents to construct latrines.
Apart from helping communities attain the Open Defecation Free (ODF) status within the government’s set time frame of 2020, the initiative has given children an opportunity to headline change in their community and contribute towards shaping a better tomorrow.
Last year, 34 out of Kenya’s 47 counties reported cholera outbreaks leading to loss of lives. The most affected regions were areas where open defecation is rampant.
These diseases take a huge toll on Kenya’s economy. A 2012 World Bank study indicated that the Kenya loses about Ksh.27 billion annually due to poor sanitation.
So far, only two counties – Busia and Kitui – have attained the ODF status.
Wanjiku Kuria and Deborah Oyaro are Hygiene &Sanitation Experts at World Vision Kenya