Monday, February 5th, 2018
LONDON, Feb 6(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – There is a growing global drive to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) in a generation. Tuesday marks International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
Here are some facts:
– An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM. In Africa, it is thought 3 million girls are at risk every year.
– FGM is known to be prevalent in nearly 30 African countries, Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan and Indonesia. There is growing evidence it exists in many more Asian and Middle Eastern countries than previously thought. It is also found in industrialised countries among some immigrant populations.
– Countries where the practice is near universal include Somalia, Djibouti and Guinea.
– There are several types of FGM. The ritual usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia including the clitoris. The vaginal opening may also be sewn up or sealed. Other procedures include pricking or nicking the clitoris or clitoral hood.
– FGM is mostly carried out between infancy and 15, and is arranged by the women in the family.
– It is usually performed by traditional cutters using anything from razor blades to ceremonial knives. There is a trend in some countries like Egypt and Indonesia for medical staff to perform FGM.
– FGM is practised by both Muslim and Christian communities and by followers of some indigenous religions. People often believe FGM is required by religion, but it is not mentioned in the Koran or Bible.
– It is underpinned by the desire to control female sexuality, but beliefs around the practice vary enormously. Religion, tradition and hygiene are some of the reasons given. Many believe it purifies the girl, brings her status in the community and prevents promiscuity. Uncut girls risk being ostracised.
– FGM can cause chronic pain, menstrual problems, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. Some girls haemorrhage to death or die from infections. It can also cause fatal childbirth complications in later life.
– It has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other psychological disturbances.
– FGM has been banned in most African countries affected by the practice. But enforcement of the law is usually weak and prosecutions rare. It is legal in Mali, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
– FGM violates several international treaties. In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on eliminating FGM.
Sources: WHO, UNICEF, Equality Now, Orchid Project (Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)
Authorities are concerned about the re-emergence of land invasions in Kilifi County, which have scared away investors.
Coast Regional Police Commander Larry Kieng Monday vowed to deal with people who invade land, claiming ownership.
“We will deal with them as the security team,” said Mr Kieng.
Mavuni is one of the areas worst hit by the invasions, with cartels identifying land whose owners are absent and invading it.
A survey by Nation indicated that invasion of land by people purporting to be squatters had reached an alarming rate.
Some locals have, for the last five years, formed a habit of invading undeveloped land or that owned by absentee landlords.
Some influential personalities have also been fronting locals to grab land, beach plots and prime properties, especially those owned by foreigners.
The menace has kept investors at bay, in a wait-and-see stance even after buying land.
The invaders claim most of the land belonged to their forefathers and that they have a right to inherit it.
In some instances, lives have been lost after police moved in to evict the squatters.
Interviews by the Nation yesterday indicated that the invaders have mainly been targeting undeveloped land for sub-division on the pretext of being squatters.
For the past five years, Ihaleni community has been invading land privately owned by a firm, Kilifi Plantation, at Mavuni near Kilifi Town.
According to the group’s spokesman, Mr James Mramba, they have been pushing to get the land and their quest will not stop.
“I am leading a group of 5,000 squatters to get the 4,200 acres of land. We are aware that the lease for the parcels expired between 1987 and 2013. We expected the county to apply and get the land back to the community, but the land was advertised for sale. We will not allow that and that is why we invaded it,” he said.
The group was, however, chased away by police and there is now a court order barring any activity on the land.
His sentiments are shared by Mr Ali Khamis, the secretary-general of Kibarani Ward Progressive Association (Kiwapa), a group of about 3,500 families claiming ownership of 350 acres belonging to Kenya Cashewnuts Factory near Kilifi town.
The squatters have been living on the land for four years. At one time, they were evicted by police but re-grouped and returned.
“We have a court order that had declared status quo on the land. But because we are already on the land, we shall continue to stay until the government allocates us this land,” he said.
Mr Khamis said the land was the group’s ancestral home and apart from that, their parents and grandparents had control of 65 per cent of shares in the defunct cashew nut factory and were to be compensated after it collapsed.
“We are targeting even the factory and we shall take it. It is our right because the factory changed hands without our involvement,” he said.
It has been the same battle for over 10 years at Kiwandani between squatters from Nayeni/Mbuyuni Association and the owners of 230 acres at Bofa.
The land has been the target of invasions.
The squatters have now decided to build homes on the disputed land, even after the National Land Commission (NLC) last year gazetted British owner Tonny Stubs and his family as the owners.
Speaking in an interview, Nayeni chairman Michael Mataza said they will not leave the land they call their ancestral home.
“We have built houses and we will not move out of that land,” said Mr Mataza.
Documents at the land office in Kilifi showed that the national government issued 79,471 titles in 2016 to Kilifi County residents.
In June last year, the government again issued another 5,657 title deeds in the county where Kilifi South Sub-county got the lion’s share with its three settlement schemes awarded.
A national government official, who sought anonymity because she is not authorised to speak to the press, said the land problems have been caused by family disputes, and the move by locals to encroach on private land with impunity.
“I have studied the land wrangles, especially in Kilifi South, and I discovered that apart from the invasion of locals on private lands, some of them are indeed family land conflicts playing out in the open, but closely guarded to make it appear like people have invaded,” she added.
The invasions have rattled security agents, who are now issuing warnings to any person who will be implicated in invading another person’s land.
Mr Kieng said invasions in Kilifi and Mombasa had reduced, but police were on high alert to act whenever a person tries to invade another person’s property.
He cautioned that there was no idle land at the coast.
“Invasions have reduced in Kilifi and Mombasa. They were reported earlier but slowly, sanity is returning to the sector. But our stand as security is that we will not allow people to invade another person’s land,” he added.
Patrick Hinga Wanjiru was introduced to Kenyans for the first time as a destitute man in the streets of Wangige Town surviving on morsels of decayed food and coins tossed from a distance by well-wishers.
This was until Ms Wanja Mwaura, a former classmate, who recognised him took him out of the streets and got him help at a local rehabilitation centre.
The “before” and “after” pictures of Hinga — who by then had undergone two weeks of detoxification from drugs—went viral on social media, capturing the attention of both local and international media.
The kindness of Wanja warmed the hearts of many Kenyans, particularly when Kenya was holding its repeat presidential elections in October. Kenyans were moved by the story of Hinga’s transformation and rallied to raise money to support him in his journey to recovery.
Today, he is a changed man.
We meet Hinga on Friday mid-morning at “The Retreat” rehab where he has spent the last three months undergoing counselling and rehabilitation. The serene atmosphere of Limuru is a far cry from the dusty streets of Wangige where he spent 13 years of his life.
Clean shaven, dressed in stylish maroon khaki pants, a matching shirt and trendy sneakers, Hinga who stands almost at six feet is ready to speak to the media for the first time since he was rescued from the streets.
Although his speech has been slurred by drugs and medication, Hinga speaks eloquently, shifting between English, Swahili and Kikuyu.
Born on September 15, 1983, he attended Ndararua Primary School in Kabete and sat his KCPE exams in 1998 where he scored 447 marks out of 700. He was admitted to Uthiru High School, then a provincial school, in 1999.
Hinga’s dalliance with drugs started when he was in standard eight after friends introduced him to the lifestyle.
“It all began with cigarettes,” he says. “Before we knew it, we were smoking Bhang. I gave in to drugs because of peer pressure.”
Hinga and his friends would sneak to the toilets to smoke cigarettes and bhang.
Patrick Hinga with Wanja Mwaura before he went for rehab. PHOTO | COURTESY
When his teachers discovered that Hinga was doing drugs, he was immediately expelled. He was in form two.
This, was the beginning of a downward spiral towards the path of ruin that would see him hit the streets.
After being expelled from Uthiru, he was enrolled at Elite High School in Kayole where he dropped out due to drug use.
When it was clear that Hinga could not contain his drug habit, his mother took him to Mathari Mental Hospital where he ran away several times.
So far, he has been admitted to Mathari eight times.
Hinga says he would run away and not return home for fear of being re-admitted to Mathari.
Street life was perhaps the darkest moment of Hinga’s life.
During the day, he would roam the streets of Wangige before retiring to his corner, outside a small hotel, where people would sometimes pity him and buy him a plate of fried pork.
“What pained me the most was that my siblings were at home with my mother, safe and sound, yet I was in the streets and that was really depressing for me,” he says.
It was outside that small hotel that Wanja met Hinga and recognised him.
She began talking to Hinga who expressed his wish to leave the streets and rebuild his life.
When he checked into rehab three months ago, the fee was waived and the money raised went towards opening a business for Hinga, “Hinga’s Store.”
The store is run by his mother, who, for a long time, was desperate about what to do with her son whom she thought she had lost to drugs.
The privilege and honour of having a second shot at life is not lost on the aspiring mechanic, who is determined to get better and rebuild his life. “I feel like I am a new man. I pray daily, asking God to deliver me so that I am not pulled back to that life of drugs.”
A perennial problem that makes a mockery of education reform is the tendency to force pupils to repeat classes. This is motivated by the need by some schools to improve their mean score in national exams, but it’s a violation of the rights of pupils. Many are held back and bypassed by their peers, and yet it is clear as night and day that not all can score the top grades. Indeed, there would be no need to set such an exam, in the first place.
The teachers, especially the school heads involved in this devious scheme, are aware of the adverse consequences of forcing pupils to repeat. They are also aware of a government ban.
At some point, the practice was so rampant that only a few bright children would be registered for exams. And it got worse, with some schools registering their weak pupils elsewhere so that their mean score would not be affected.
To its credit, the Education ministry has stopped some of these weird exam tricks, with the ranking of schools abolished to discourage the cut-throat competition between schools.
The findings of a study conducted by the Kenya National Examination Council are hardly surprising.
They indicate that repetition among Standard Six pupils rose from 48.2 per cent in 2007, to 53.3 per cent in 2013. And it’s not going to end soon. This interference with the normal transition must be stopped.
At least one person is diagnosed with cancer in Kisii County daily and referred to Kenyatta National Hospital for specialised treatment, health officials have revealed.
A minimum of 10 new cases of the disease are reported in a week, with most being at advanced stages where treatment may not be helpful.
The alarming figures have made doctors call for a change in lifestyle among residents.
Key among the changes is routine medical check-up to help diagnose cancer early before it spreads to other parts of the body.
Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital Chief Executive Officer Enock Ondari says oesophagus, cervix, breast and prostate are the most common types of cancers in the region.
“We formed a cancer registry after realising that the disease was becoming a threat. Through this registry, we have established the most common types of cancer,” Dr Ondari said.
While lamenting that the biggest challenge to fighting cancer was late diagnosis, Dr Ondari said most of the cases referred to KNH were in Stage Four.
“We are rooting for early diagnosis and that is only possible with routine check-up,” the doctor added.
He said the hospital diagnoses cancer and handles minor chemotherapy.
“For radiography and other advanced forms of cancer treatment, patients are referred to Nairobi,” he said.
Dr Ondari said effective diagnosis had been aided by modern machines acquired by the devolved government in partnership with the national government through the Managed Equipment Services.
“We use ultra sound, mammogram, X-ray, CT scanners, MRI and other machines for screening and diagnosis. They have been of great help to the hospital and residents,” he said.
The gadgets are in good condition.
Residents interviewed said they were happy with devolution as it had made it easy for them to get quality services.
“A few years ago, there were no such facilities here and every cancer case was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital. It has become cheaper with services nearer home,” said a patient who had gone for mammogram tests.
Governor James Ongwae recently said his administration planned to set up a Sh2 billion cancer centre in order to boost care and address the high needs of patients.
He said the plans were at an advanced stage.
SET UP CENTRE
“Confronted by the fact that cancer is a serious health problem in Kisii County, we prepared a project document for setting up the centre,” he said.
He added that with the document, the county had attracted the attention of Arab Bank of Economic Development in Africa and the Saudi Fund of Development who agreed to provide Sh1 billion for the project.
The Kenyan Government would contribute Sh280 million.
Mr Ongwae said the loan agreed with one of the foreign banks had already been signed while the other was still being negotiated.
He said the centre would be equipped with theatres, examination rooms, lecture rooms, mammograms, waiting rooms, an observation ward, an intensive care unit, 40 beds, a control room two shielded rooms for X-rays, CT scanner, oncologists and other staff.
“The centre will serve about 10 million people in Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu, Kericho and Narok counties,” he said.
A 23-year-old woman charged with the murder of her new-born has implicated her husband in the case.
Ms Mercy Njeri told Justice Teresia Matheka of the High Court in Nyeri that it was her husband, Mr Michael Ngatia, who strangled the five-day-old baby before escaping to an unknown destination.
The mother of two said the husband did not want another child.
“He was not happy after we got the second born and he did not want the third child. He was a drunkard and was using drugs like bhang and he was selling the same,” Ms Njeri told the court while denying the charges.
The court heard that the couple killed the child on April 27, 2016 at 8pm while on their way home from Kirinyaga to Karatina and dumped the body in Ragati Forest where it was collected by police.
It was Ms Njeri who took the police to the scene of the crime, where the baby’s body was found in a polythene bag.
She said Mr Ngatia, who was a casual worker in a local construction site, escaped after the incident and has never been traced.
Dr Stephen Wang’ombe of Karatina District Hospital, who conducted the post-mortem, said the baby died after strangulation.
“The findings were that the body had external injuries around the neck and lungs were collapsed. The cause of death was strangulation and there was a piece of cloth around the neck,” said Dr Wang’ombe as he produced the post-mortem report as an exhibit.
The case was adjourned to February 29 when Dr Richu Mwenda, a psychiatrist who ascertained that Ms Njeri was fit to stand trial in the murder case, will testify.
Parents at Sigoti Complex Girls Secondary School in Kisumu County are threatening to transfer their children en masse following a spate of fires.
The school was Monday closed indefinitely to deal with the aftermath of yet another inferno on Sunday.
The agitated parents issued the threat after property of unknown value was destroyed when fire burnt a dormitory at the school.
According to the students, the fire started at 4am when Form One students, who mostly occupy the dorm, were asleep. No casualties were reported.
This is the fourth fire at the institution in a span of five months as some locals and parents allege ‘devil worship’ by some students is the cause of the infernos.
“My child told me that there is a Form Three student, who transferred to the institution from Nyakach Girls High School, suspected to be a devil worshipper and behind the fires,” said a parent who asked not to be named.
“We must sort this issue or all of us will take our children away from this school,” she added.
When Nation visited the school Monday, it was deserted with only workers left.
Burnt items belonging to the students remained strewn all over inside and outside the destroyed dorm.
At the gate, police officers were present to thwart any attempts by locals or parents to storm the institution and also to provide security to students who started leaving the school from Sunday morning.
With all the happenings, investigations to find those responsible for the fires that have rocked the school since last year remain shrouded in mystery with claims of devil worship, conflict between locals and the principal and land ownership disputes being floated as the factors leading to the infernos.
Nyanza regional police commander Leonard Katana said they were yet to establish the cause of the fire.
A few weeks ago, he had indicated that two people had been charged in connection to the school fires.
But a local who was born and raised in Sigoti, Mr Shem Okuto, admitted there was some animosity between them and the Principal, Mrs Rose Ndiga.
He added that the first fire sometime September last year, was said to have been caused by an electricity fault.
He narrated how they came in and helped put out the fire but the school head accused them of starting a second one the following morning.
“We have been helping in extinguishing the fire and saving a lot of property, but when Madam started accusing us of being arsonists we stopped and that is why locals kept off this time round leading to loss of property as the roof even caved in,” said Mr Okuto.
He added since the hostility between them and the school head started, police have always been deployed to guard the institution day and night.
He pointed out that a person who owned the parcel of land on which the school is built did not take it lightly after he was “forced out of the land”, a matter he pointed out could also be tied to the woes befalling the school.
The building that burnt was a laboratory transformed into a dormitory.
This was after the earlier fires destroyed the others.
A temporary dormitory has been constructed to house learners whose population continue to grow following the recent admission of Form ones.
Nyanza Regional Police Commander Mr Leonard Katana said the fire started around 4am Sunday and that they are yet to establish the cause.
A few weeks ago, Mr Katana had indicated that two people had been charged with arson in connection to the school fire tragedies.
“My officers are on the ground trying to get to the route of the matter,” said Mr Katana.
Mrs Ndiga has remained hostile to journalists even as devastated parents demanded answers to the frequent fires.
The early Sunday morning fire incident happened two weeks after another tragedy in the school that led to its indefinite closure.
The January incident had occurred barely four months after two dormitories at the secondary school were burnt in a span of three days.
The principal had indicated then that the students had undergone counselling after the fire incident even as education officials and parents suspected it was an arson attack.
Mrs Sabina Arodi, the county director of education, had said it could have been an arson attack, just like two fires last year.
She called on anybody with information regarding the infernos to approach her office in a bid to resolve any conflict that may put the lives of students in danger.
Other lobby groups from the region have also continued to pile pressure on the government to step in and establish the cause of the fires.
Emergency Alert: Ballistic missile inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
Residents of Hawaii, the Pacific Island-State that is the birthplace of ‘our’ former United States President Barack Obama, were in mid-January sent scampering for cover after they received this message.
The SMS alert went out simultaneously to all mobile phone users. It was also sent out by email and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
All television and radio programming was at the same time interrupted with the same message.
The alert stands as an impressive testimony of how the government can work with the media, telephone and Internet providers at times of grave threats.
However, what seemed like mortal danger turned into a tragic comedy. It was a false alarm caused by a sleepy Emergency Management Agency worker pressing the wrong button.
And why did it take so long for the message to be recalled and the citizens put out of their terror and misery?
Governor David Ige had forgotten his Twitter password!
Jokes aside, such a system is absolutely essential in times of war, civil disturbance, natural disasters or other emergencies where the government needs to urgently communicate with citizens.
We could do with such a system in Kenya, but that itself poses grave risk and danger because those in authority often do not make a distinction between security threats to citizens, and political threats that pose risks only to their hold on power.
The broadcast media shutdown has much to do with insecure leaders demanding that about the freest and most professional and responsible media on the African continent do their bidding and black out opposition activities.
ABILITY TO GOVERN
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto campaigned in the 2013 elections, promising that their International Criminal Court trials for crimes against humanity were “personal challenges” that would not affect their ability to govern.
It was not long before personal challenges were transformed into national and continental challenges.
Individuals indicted in their personal capacities turned their ICC cases into trials against Kenya.
Domestic and foreign policy was subverted to the service of suspects in the dock, and vast amounts in public resources diverted towards their defence effort.
A similar game plan is at play again. The Jubilee Party regime faces challenges from the refusal of defeated National Super Alliance presidential candidate Raila Odinga and running-mate Kalonzo Musyoka to recognise its electoral victory.
Opposition agitation intended to, improbably, force through yet another repeat election has already spawned a consumer boycott of corporations seen to be allied to the Jubilee leadership, as well as launches across the country of ‘People’s Assemblies’.
What has the government seeing red, however, is the mock swearing-in a week ago of Mr Odinga as the “People’s President”.
The government cited national security threats to try and block live TV coverage of the event at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, and despatched policemen to shut down transmission for stations that ignored an irregular order delivered outside the established media regulatory regime.
President Kenyatta clearly faced a political challenge, but like with the ICC cases in 2013, has elevated this to a national challenge by manufacturing the false narrative of a national security threat.
This false narrative is now being used to round up opposition leaders on spurious charges of treason and subversion, oppressive tactics borrowed directly from the totalitarian one-party dictatorships of President Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi.
The Police State being out in place under Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i is in utter contempt of the law.
Trumped-up charges, those arrested being ‘exiled’ to hostile environments and denied access by lawyers and family, wilful disobedience of court orders, are just some of the manifestations of the return to dictatorship.
In the best-fashion of past despots from which it draws inspiration, the Jubilee regime will likely be the one to incite violence to create justification for crackdowns.
To do that, it must have the media under its thumb.
This is not a regime that can be trusted with an emergency communication system such as that established in Hawaii and other places; not when personal challenges are turned into fake national security threats.
A recent article in the New York Times by Karen Weintraub points out that elephants are afraid of bees.
Let that sink in for a second.
The largest animal on land is so terrified of a tiny insect that it will flap its ears, stir up dust and make noises when it hears the buzz of a bee.
Of course, a bee’s sting can’t penetrate the thick hide of an elephant.
However, experience has shown that when bees swarm, hundreds might sting an elephant in its most sensitive areas, the trunk, mouth and eyes, and that will hurt.
Elephants use the trunk for sniffing out and securing food, avoiding predators, and locating their partners and offspring.
It is unsurprising that an elephant would jealously guard this sensitive organ.
This discovery has allowed conservationists to set up beehive fences to safeguard these regal animals that represent dignity, good fortune, intelligence, longevity, power, strength, success and wisdom in proverbial symbolism.
Conservationists are able to help prevent conflicts that put the behemoths at risk. But some elephants outsmart bees and quickly learn how to overcome the safeguard method when the reward is perceived to be worth the risk.
But that is short-lived and researchers say they soon react positively with the “negative conditioning” of a few stings.
Elephants not deterred by this threat are often endangered by farmers trying to save their crops.
You put all these things together and you have a system that’s good at protecting the ecosystem.
While processing this phenomenon, one conjures up comparative appraisal within a political, public, and private context.
One can also think of the metaphor of the “elephant in the room.”
The issue we see, the discomfort we feel, but over time become used to living with.
It would appear there is a global menagerie when it comes to the glaring issue that everyone can see, but choose not to acknowledge or address.
Whether it’s the elephant in the room, gorilla in the corner, or stinky fish.
They all represent “the emperor has no clothes on” such issues.
They are metaphors that describe the controversial issues getting in the way of our success.
As the polarisation of our society continues, we cannot dismiss the elephants.
LEARN FROM HISTORY
There are ample lessons that could be learned from history so that it does not repeat itself.
While our default is to think that if the big issues are sorted out, everything else will be fine, what we really need to look out for in order to master this tipping point are the “bees”, the soft issues.
These seemingly little and annoying things can become quite large.
The inadequacies manifesting in our leaders and institutions are symptoms of issues swarming around us such as negative ethnicity, corruption, abuse or disrespect of rights, bad politics.
These things that we ignore because to call them out would trigger conflict, shame or simply fear are bad for society.
To tackle them we need to accept that they grow in our comfort zone, and are in our cultural biases and politics.
We must be willing to listen to people with whom we vehemently disagree, and must be willing to dialogue.
Drawing from an older discovery nothing in the animal kingdom works in isolation.
We must be willing to co-exist.
If we can’t work together, we cannot solve problems such as food security, poverty, ethnicity, and unemployment.
Finding lasting solutions to shared problems starts with dialogue.
As Gutmann and Thompson aptly describe in their book, The Spirit of Compromise, governing in a democracy demands compromise.
It is necessary to govern for the benefit of all citizens.
Many great leaders have used this weapon in a broad arsenal of remedies to choose from and to find common areas of compromise and purpose.
Without being intimidated by the threats of a few detractors, a swarm of buzzing bees may just be the warning needed to re-evaluate decisions, change direction and mitigate against any potential pitfalls.
Mr Aludo is a strategy adviser Twitter: jeffaludo
Nowadays, our highways are terrifying for the notoriety in the number of fatal accidents.
But there is a subtler but hazardous spectre lurking that we conveniently ignore – open defecation.
Every day, tens of thousands of folks take long-distance journeys of hundreds of kilometres.
Sadly, public service vehicles, unlike planes, ships or trains, lack toilets.
The only option available for passengers is to use amenities at eateries in a few places.
For the rest of the journey, most travellers turn to the bush.
DASH TO THE BUSH
It is common to see buses and mini-vans stopping along the highways so that passengers can dash to the bush to answer the call of nature.
These scenes are ugly. But then you feel sorry for the passengers.
Still, this behaviour is unacceptable. It is an onslaught on public decency, as it is to public health.
Diseases associated with open defecation such as typhoid, dysentery or cholera are not only expensive to treat, but also deadly. It is no wonder that in 2015, the United Nations rolled out plans to end open defecation by 2030.
Indeed, No. 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) aspires for a world whose sanitation is up to scratch.
It is in the UN spirit that “by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situation”.
Today, 10 to 15 per cent of Kenyans defecate in the open. The figures might not include passengers.
While the National Open Defecation Free-Kenya 2020 campaign has seen the construction of toilets and latrines, especially in the villages and slums, highways have been ignored. But you can imagine the sheer volumes of human waste dumped along the highways daily.
You can also imagine the detrimental effects of such waste on man and the environment.
The trouble is that when it rains, all that waste is washed into rivers and wells. It is the same water that livestock, wildlife and people consume.
Some use it for irrigation. The pathogens find their way into our systems. While there is no hard data related to this kind of behaviour, it would be foolhardy to assume that it is harmless.
Also hit hard are toddlers, who suffer heat burns due to failure to change diapers. It’s a pity that in 2018, our people still relieve themselves in the bush when Elon Musk elsewhere is launching SpaceX to ship human beings to Mars.
But this is not to say that our travellers are barbarians. It is about insensitivity and inadequacies of strategic thought associated with our planners and those charged with ensuring public health and decency.
Travellers have little choice, especially when the call of nature comes. It is why there is a need to build stopover points along highways for proper sanitation. In the meantime, all buses should be compelled to have a water tank and soap or sanitary wipes.
In any case, the Constitution is explicit when it comes to such decencies. The law guides that people should have the right to “reasonable standards of sanitation.” Thus, Article 43(b) treats sanitation as a basic human right.
Indeed, open defecation robs people of their privacy and dignity.
It is indignity of the highest order for people to go the bush to answer the call of nature in the full glare of other travellers. Here, children see their parents doing it.
Women and men even do it close to one another. Then, there is no water to wash hands after the call. Most people do not have basics such as toilet paper and resort to God knows what — leaves or grass. This is unacceptable. This culture has to end.
That is why the onus is on the national highways authority, together with the Ministry of Health, to find a lasting solution to this mess.
If the government is unable to factor into their plans building toilets along the highways, another option is to invite the private sector under the public private partnership (PPP) framework.
The investor will provide the service and government will pay for it. Public transporters will pay a levy for sanitation. If not, this means that travelling long distances will still remain a journey of indignity.
We should not just sit, turning the other way on this matter.
We need to restore the dignity of passengers while taming the environmental and health catastrophe related to open defecation on our highways.
Mr Wamanji is a public relations and communication adviser. [email protected] Twitter: @manjis