Sewage problem a weighty issue in urban areas

Thursday May 27 2010

Hop, step, and jump — over sewage. Eldoret town is among 32 of 178 councils that boast a sewage system, even though it bursts every so often. Photos/ FILE

Only 32 out of Kenya’s 178 local government authorities have a sewerage system.

This means that 142 local authorities around the country lack access to any form of sewerage system and are therefore highly exposed to diseases, according to a report on the link to health and environment.

The report on Kenya’s Situational Analysis and Needs Assessment (SANA) found that 39 per cent of people in rural areas do not have access to proper sanitation comparable to international standards.

Water sources

Only 58 per cent of Kenyans have access to improved water sources.

Poor sanitation and hygiene and water and air pollution, the study stated, are the major environment factors that pose a health risk to communities.


They contributed heavily to acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, cancer and malaria, Environment assistant minister Jackson Kiptanui stated.

He said the welfare of Kenyans depended not only on good healthcare services, but also on the quality of the physical, social and the cultural environment they lived in.

“Improvement of the environment will ensure that incidents of disease are reduced,” the assistant minister said.

The challenge now is for policy-makers to come up with the right policies and programmes to deal with environmental risks in line with the Libreville Declaration.

Signatory countries

The environment and health declaration was signed in Libreville, Gabon, in August 2008, when the signatory countries committed to deal with environment issues that lead to poor human health. A large part of town populations in Africa has poor waste management, the report states.

Waste generation had increased over time, together with its toxic and hazardous nature due to the fast pace of development.

The document rated disease vector, drought, floods and organic pollution of drinking water as high level risks in both rural and town settings caused by natural and human activities.

It said that there was non-coordination in linking all related health sectors and environmental agencies in the country.

The health and environmental sectors, the report recommended, should be harmonised to include a joint plan of action.

Among the environmental risks said to cause high risk medical conditions as a result of human activities is pollution of drinking water.

This, the report indicated, caused outbreaks of cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases in the rural areas and contaminated drinking water and food in towns.

Another factor of high risk to human health both in rural and urban areas is simple waste. In the rural areas, simple waste improperly dumped acts as a breeding ground for disease carriers like flies, cockroaches and rodents.

Contamination of drinking water and food can be caused by overstayed garbage. In slums, residents are at a higher risk due to the close proximity to their homes.

Indoor air pollution is higher in rural areas than in towns while outdoor air pollution is higher in towns.

Indoor pollution is mostly caused by charcoal emissions due to poorly designed fire places, lack of proper ventilation and use of inefficient solid fuels.

Low risks

In urban areas, this is found in factories, smoking of tobacco products and vehicular emissions which lead to a high level of toxins in the air.

The pollen and dust people are exposed to in the rural areas contributes to low risks in human health.

Other health risks are caused by natural calamities such as floods, land slides and earth tremors.

However, the report reveals that most risks to the human health which may vary in intensity are caused by human activities.