The Kisii County government health department is partnering with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in a campaign aimed improving hygiene among residents.
County Public Health Officer Melitus Kabar said the campaign was aimed at eliminating diseases by promoting the use of latrines and other hygiene practices.
Kabar said 2 percent of the population in Kisii Defecate in the open thus pre-disposing the public to disease harboring bacteria.
Around 41 percent and 56 percent of the population has access to improved and unimproved toilet facilities respectively.
Kabar regretted that open defecation (OD) and a number of factors are responsible for the spread of a number of diseases like typhoid, cholera, amoebiasis and diarrhea.
However, Kabar observed that some waterborne diseases were previously regarded as diseases of the poor but the trend has since changed as those considered to be rich are equally suffering from them due contamination of water and food sources caused by open defecation.
Kabar also attributed the rise of disease infections to failure by members of the public to wash their hands before and after taking meals.
“Sadly, a number of people have formed a habit of eating without washing their hands and drinking questionable bottled water. This has led to outbreaks of waterborne diseases like cholera in big hotels and estates,” he said.
The County Public Health Officer was speaking during a meeting with UNICEF officials who reiterated their commitment to help the county undertake advocacy campaigns in a bid to eliminate the practice of open defecation by November this year.
UNICEF is currently partnering with the County Government in immunization programmes and in a multisectoral Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) drive in public institutions.
The officers from UNICEF were led by Andrew Trevett, Chief Officer,WASH programme ,Anne Wambui,Chief WASH officer, Kisumu Zonal office and Abdi Hassan WASH specialist and they were visiting Kisii to assess the uptake in the hand wash and ODF campaigns in the county.
“An Open Defecation Free (ODF) environment can be fully achieved if Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) advocacy programme is fully implemented in every village. This can be successful if we get support from partners like UNICEF,” said Kabar.
The CLTS programme will include provision of and use of toilets, hand washing facilities with soaps, potable water household use, sound refuse management practices, provision of refuse pits in homesteads, improved school sanitation, community mobilization to develop health seeking behaviors, nutritional advice and child immunization.
Kabar indicated that this year, the county, in concert with UNICEF will install hand washing facilities in schools more especially Early Child Development (ECD) centers and educate the young ones on the essence of continually washing ones hands especially before taking meals or snacks.
“We have jointly reached 300 schools. We intend to cover all institutions and we urge the public to develop health seeking behaviours to avoid contamination with disease harboring pathogens,” he said.
Kabar was optimistic that CLTS will be achieved and celebrations to mark World Toilet Day will be marked in Kisii come November this year.
Trevett observed that voluntary, strict observation of hygiene tendencies among the population will go a long way in ridding the county of unnecessary expenses in treating maladies related to food or water contamination.
He underscored the need to step up health and hygiene campaigns among the public, especially in children who were not only prone to infections but also at an age where they can inculcate a habit of staying and keeping the environment clean besides being able to customize it into adulthood.