Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Hand hygiene reduces spread of disease in Kenyan slum

'We have seen a drastic change in the number of diarrheal diseases during pandemic,' pediatrician tells Anadolu Agency

Andrew Wasike   | 15.10.2020
Hand hygiene reduces spread of disease in Kenyan slum

NAIROBI, Kenya

Doctors stationed in Kibera here in the nation’s capital said Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic has introduced proper handwashing habits in the slums and residents are rarely getting sick.

“We have seen a drastic change in the number of diarrheal diseases during the COVID-19 period meaning that the handwashing that was implemented to reduce the number of cases has really worked,” Joshua Okoth, a pediatrician who sees children between the ages of 0 and 5 and their mothers, told Anadolu Agency.

He said in his department in January had 32 cases of diarrheal disease and 46 cases in February. “Skip to May and the cases dropped to less than 10 and up to today the numbers are even lower,” said the doctor who works at AMREF Kibera hospital. “This does not apply to children alone but the overall figures in our hospital.”

Poor sanitation in Kibera slums, the largest in Africa, has always contributed to the spread of diseases and here where most outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, diarrhea and typhoid have been sprung.

There is no sewer system in Kibera. Residents are exceptionally poor and earn less than $1 daily. Tap water is a luxury. Unfinished roads are dusty and strewn with litter, sharing what little space there is with open sewers which drain into a nearby river.

Houses are huts made of mud with rusty iron roofs.

Refa Kutai, who has been a Kibera community health worker with 100 households in her care and a total of 464 people, said: “Before the pandemic, we used to have so many diseases. These things have reduced because the community have adhered to washing their hands."

Denis Munai from AMREF Health Africa said the biggest challenge for slum residents has been getting water and soap for washing hands.

Locals who spoke to Anadolu Agency said they have better health due to water points set up in the slums where people can wash their hands with soap and water.

The water projects are funded by non-governmental organizations from across the world.

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