Nairobi is a city of hustlers, here you will find people doing all sorts of trade, but one peculiar hustle no one talks about but remains a major challenge in the city is the hustle of finding an accessible public toilet in Kenya’s capital.
We have traders who work in buildings that have no functional toilets and they often have to contend with a walk to the nearest public toilets where they will have to part with either Sh 20 or Sh 10 for every use or sneak into a nearby restaurant and hope to use their toilets without the management noticing that you only came to relieve yourself.
So guarded are toilets in business premises in the city from “outsiders” that one popular restaurant has embedded a big notice right outside its washrooms warning that they are only reserved for customers and anyone found walking in just to use with toilets will part with a Sh 2000 fine!
Supermarkets are even much worse and do not provide their facilities to their customers. I recall an incident where I almost peed on myself while at Quickmart in Tomboya Street and even when I walked to the customer care desk to ask to use their staff toilets the female manager whom my case was communicated to by one of their junior staff blatantly told me they didn’t have a toilet for customers. I ended up leaving my shopping behind in protest.
This happened about two months ago and I was angry, not just at the management of Quickmart but also by the government’s failure to enforce directives.
Banks and Supermarkets Ordered to Provide Toilets for Clients
In 2016, the Director of Public Health, Kepha Ombacho, ordered supermarkets, banks and all public and private institutions to provide their customers with sanitation facilities.
Mr Ombacho said that the facilities should be free of charge and warned that the Ministry of Health is conducting a crackdown to revoke licenses of institutions that lack decent sanitation facilities for their clients.
Unfortunately, like many legislations in the country, enforcement is always an issue.
Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko had in 2018 announced that City Hall was planning to take over the management of public toilets in the city from the private business people and youth groups that have been running them but the plan never saw the light of day.
“City residents should not be charged to use public toilets. It is unfair to charge voters to use a public facility. I will give a directive that from today all toilets within the city will be free,” Sonko said
Access To Free and Clean Public Toilets Key to Ending Cholera Outbreaks in Nairobi
Approximately 19,500 Kenyans, including 17,100 children under the age of five years are dying each year from diarrhoea – nearly 90 percent directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Diarrhoeal diseases are also one of the top five leading causes of deaths and disabilities in the country.
In 2019, Kenya was among countries that did not achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets for increasing access to water and sanitation as well as the national targets enshrined in the vision 2030 with experts warning that with the current acceleration rate, it will take Kenya another 133 years to achieve universal sanitation coverage.
To Stop Open Defecation In Kenya We Must Stop Packaging Toilets As Luxuries
Kenya cannot purport to be making efforts to end open defecation if wananchi cannot access free and clean toilets right at the capital and in major towns outside Nairobi.
The global Target in the Sustainable development goals (SDGs) is to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation by 2030.
More than half of Kenya’s population is at risk of diseases and death, with over 75 percent of the country’s disease burden caused by poor personal hygiene, inadequate sanitation practices and unsafe drinking water.
According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization, 54 percent of the population (19 million people) in Kenya do not have access to a latrine, while some 10 million ‘have to answer the call of nature in the open fields or bushes’ (the Coast, Eastern, Nyanza and Rift valley provinces have the highest number of open defecators).
WHO further reports that open defecation costs the country US$ 88 million per year yet eliminating the practice would require less than 1.2 million latrines to be built.
According to the Ministry Of Health, with an increased acceleration rate of about 3 to 5 percent per year from the current rate of 0.75 percent, Kenya can achieve the universal access to improved sanitation target by the year 2030.
The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) should take over the management of all public toilets in the county and make clean and free to use for taxpayers.