Water and Environmental Sanitation
By Juliett Otieno
Eldoret, Kenya, July 2008 - THIRTY health workers congregated in Eldoret to be trained by UNICEF Water and Sanitation officers on water purification using Wagtech Potalab kits purchased using Japanese Aid funding.
Following recent outbreaks of cholera in Kenya’s Nyanza region, the Kenya government requested the portable water testing kits to enhance its capacity to monitor quality of drinking water taken by residents there.
Kenya’s Ministry of Health has been working with partners in the region to curb the spread of and control cholera in the region which has seen the deaths of about 50 people since April. Partners working closely with the MOH in cholera interventions are the Kenya Red Cross, Care Kenya, UNICEF, World Vision and MSF, among others.
The training was also to help improve water quality in areas occupied by IDPs and their host communities. In Nakuru and Eldoret, residents feared that their water sources may have been poisoned or contaminated during the post election violence. It was feared that many of the wells and pipes got polluted and people were scared to use them because of the likelihood that they were impure.
About 30 trainees attended the two day session, which included10 District health officers each from Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret, from government ministries of Water, Public health and Sanitation, as well as partner organizations like International Rescue Committee, Action AID and Map International.
The health officers were trained in water test parameters, sampling, testing and presentation of results, consumables, reagents, maintenance and sustainability, and were equipped with skills to use the portable water testing kits to monitor water quality in the region and to develop water quality surveillance plans.
There are presently only eight kits available, three of which will be used in Nakuru, three in Kisumu and two in Eldoret. One kit costs approximately Ksh 400, 000 and there is need for more. This means an average of three kits for every ten officers who are expected to train their respective communities on water purification.
“First priority areas are IDP infested schools especially because of the presence of children and those transitional camps hosting IDPs who are on their way to their homes going by the government coordinated operation nyumbani relocation programme”, says Phillip Onditi, Project Officer, Water and Sanitation Hygiene, UNICEF Kenya.
“Among IDP host communities, so far there have been no disease incidences in all these areas as a result of contaminated water, just complaints from the residents that the wells were vandalized and polluted, so they started using streams, some of which are also polluted.”
“Many diseases that can be averted are coming through water, if it was cleaner, there would be less diseases, less deaths, “said Abbey Dahir, Logistics Officer, Water and Sanitation Hygiene, UNICEF Kenya.
These diseases are such as cholera, hepatitis and dysentery. Sources of these bacteria are human, animal and bird waste, while the most contaminated water are surface waters such as wells, rivers and lakes.