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Residents at risk of diseases as Lake Victoria turned into toilet

By Isaiah Gwengi | April 20th 2019 at 12:03:40 GMT +0300

Mageta Water Bus that operates between Usenge and Mageta Island is the only boat with a toilet. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

The act of going to the toilet is not simple for a visitor to the shores of Lake Victoria.

For the fisher folk, boat operators and their passengers, lack of water and sanitation facilities the only available “public toilet” is the lake.

People out in the waters fishing relieve themselves in plastic bags which they then throw in the lake. The shorelines along some beaches are littered with faeces.

Most of the beaches host about 200 people comprising fishermen, coxswains, touts, prostitutes, shopkeepers, fishmongers, security officers among others.

They answer calls of nature on the beaches or toilets constructed by the County Government.

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“We initially used to relieve ourselves in polythene bags until they were banned last year.

"We have now been left with no option but relieve ourselves in the lake, especially at night,” says Moses Okoth, a fisherman at Wich-Lum beach in Bondo.

Mr Okoth, who has operated in the lake for two decades, says you only need to inform the crew when nature calls and proceed to relieve yourself.

“It worried me at first and I couldn’t imagine relieving myself while colleagues were watching but after seeing people do it, it became normal because we would spend more than ten hours in the lake,” he explains.

Granted that the lake is the main source of water for the residents, sporadic outbreaks of water borne diseases, including cholera are common along the beaches. These areas also lack health facilities.

Pamela Amondi, a fishmonger in Mageta Island recalls how she developed a bad stomach during a journey to Usenge beach by boat.

“A woman who was sitting next to me handed me a polythene bag and told me to relieve myself in the presence of more than 20 passengers on board,” recalls Ms Amondi.

Peter Oluoch admits that it wasn’t easy until eight years ago when a water bus with a toilet started operating between Usenge and Mageta Island.

But last week, fishermen and beach dwellers raised alarm over disposal of human waste from the water bus, saying it was a health hazard.

An operator of the vessel who requested anonymity, disclosed that they have tried to raise the same issue with the management with little success.  

“We had been advised by the public health to get a system of holding the waste instead of flushing it directly into the lake as it is now but the management is taking too long to implement this,” the operator said.

County Director of Public Health Kennedy Oruenjo says they advised the vessel operators to get a chemical closet which can be emptied and washed when they dock. 

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