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Home / Health & Science

West Pokot: Have a pit latrine, keep the doctor away

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy MARY MUOKI | Mon,Mar 29 2021 00:00:00 EAT
By MARY MUOKI | Mon,Mar 29 2021 00:00:00 EAT


Having a toilet is considered so normal it barely rates a second thought. The common assumption is that every home has a toilet. But this is hardly the case in Tamkal, West Pokot County where a cluster of homesteads without a toilet does not raise eyebrows among locals who found open spaces ideal.

Gladys Kirasia and her family had no toilet and always did their business in the bush around their home. She had not linked illnesses suffered by family members to using the bush and their efforts “consumed by animals and pets and which they brought to the homestead exposing us to illnesses like typhoid. Now we have a toilet and we all use it,” she says shyly.

This state of affairs which had gone on for ages and Denis Talaam, a county public health officer in the area says “we used to have a lot of illnesses arising from poor hygiene and sanitation before” as lack of latrines directly lead to the transmission of diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, typhoid, and even polio.

But after rigorous sensitization campaigns across villages led by Action Against Hunger, “most villagers built latrines and coincidentally the number of hospital visits has also gone down,” explains Talaam.

The change of attitude was achieved when Action Against Hunger embarked on community-led total sanitation (CLTS) exercise to improve hygiene and annotation practices through behaviour change campaigns.

Health officers often visited homestead searching for sites of open defecation and the shame of villagers seeing the ‘fruits of their labour’ led many to dig pit latrines which are low cost and thus affordable.

WHO estimates that about two billion people globally have no access to basic sanitation facilities like toilets and over 600 million people still use open spaces for short and long calls. Thick bushes, street alleys, and even in open water bodies.

Reuben Amon, a community health worker says after ‘trigger’ sensitization campaigns about 47 households in the villages of Kitoe, Kokelai, and Bochele which had no toilets now have latrines.

The only challenge for health workers is now to ensure behaviour change in the community takes root without relapsing to the old ways.

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