Rise in Turkana cholera cases blamed on poor sanitation

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In Summary

  • Community health worker Jessica Ajikon urged residents to use mobile toilets supplied by the county.

  • WaterAid, an intervention non-profit organisation, said millions of Kenyans still lack access to safe water.

Lack of toilets and poor hygiene in most restaurants in Turkana County have been blamed for increasing cases of cholera that have so far claimed three lives with 78 others hospitalised.

Dr Gilchrist Lokoel, Lodwar Referral Hospital chief executive officer, said the three died while receiving treatment.

READ: Four die of cholera, 10 cases confirmed in Turkana

Poor sanitation along Lake Turkana has also contributed immensely to the outbreak.

People relieve themselves in the bush and in the water because most homes do not have toilets.

When it rains, the waste is swept into Lake Turkana, which is the main sources of water for thousands of people in the county.

Other than lack of toilets and potable drinking water, there is also the aspect of culture associated with toilet use, which has played a major role in the spread cholera.

The most affected villages are old Ghana and Nayanae-esanyanait.

The cholera is said to have begun at an irrigation scheme in Katidu, Turkana South, which health experts managed to contain.

But then it broke out again in fishing sites in Kalokol, in Longech.

“The number of latrine coverage in Turkana County is only 26 per cent of the population.

"This means that so many people do not have toilets in their homes. Accessing clean water is also a big problem; people are drinking dirty water from the lake,” Dr Lokoel said.

Following the outbreak at the fishing shores, Dr Lokoel said the county has banned fishing and transportation of fish.

But when the Nation team visited the fishing sites on Saturday, some of the fishermen were still fishing and transporting their catch using carts.

“It is very unfortunate that they are still fishing with the cholera outbreak. We are going to put stringent measures which they won’t like. It is better to take precaution than put many lives at risk,” Dr Lokoel said.

He said although they are optimistic that the outbreak will be managed in the coming week, lorries transporting essential medicines to the county for managing the disease have been hindered following heavy rains.

The Kainuko bridge was swept away by the floods.

Dr Lokoel said some commodities were sourced from nearby hospitals though they were not enough.

“If the rains continue and we don’t get the commodities within a week, then it is going to compromise the whole process. We are hopeful that we are going to control it in the earliest time possible,” he added.

When the Nation staff visited the sites, they too got stuck in Lokichar for two days.

Ms Jessica Ajikon, a community health worker, urged residents to use mobile toilets supplied by the county.

“Most people diarrhoea because they drink lake water. We are struggling to ensure that they use toilets though its very difficult. They are used to defecating in the lake,” she said.

“Most of my neighbours too do not have toilets,” she added.

Contamination of water sources has also been blamed for the cholera outbreak.

“We are concerned that there is an upsurge in new cases, especially due to contamination of water sources,” Dr Lokoel said.

“People do not seem to understand what hygiene is all about. Maybe efforts should be made to educate them before the situation gets out of hand,” he added.

The county has since supplied the residents in high risk areas with mobile toilets, clean drinking water and water purifiers.

“We are not sure whether they will use the toilets but we hope it is going to reduce the number of cholera cases,” he said.

WaterAid, an intervention non-profit organisation, said millions of Kenyans still lack access to safe water.

Half the population live below the poverty line and millions lack basic toilets.

WaterAid champions for increased access to clean water.