21 May 2018

Kenya: Costly Lessons - Over 200 Schools Shut as Water-Borne Diseases Rise

The state of health in various schools hit by ongoing floods is worrying, as students and pupils risk contracting various diseases.

This comes even as the Kenya Meteorological Department warns of heavy rainfall in several parts of the country - including Rift Valley, Western Kenya, Northern and Central regions - for the next three days.

In the affected schools, most pit latrines have collapsed while raised toilets are overflowing.

INACCESSIBLE

So far, more than 200 schools have been affected by floods, according to reports from the Kenya Red Cross, making it impossible for students to report for the second term.

In most of the flooded regions, classes are filled with dirty water and effluent from toilets and sewerage systems. The compounds are virtually inaccessible.

Water systems have also been damaged, with dirty sludge and sewage mixing freely.

Treated or boiled water is largely unavailable for drinking, exposing students and staff to water-borne diseases.

According to the latest United Nations report released a week ago, about 2,2943 cholera cases have been reported in 15 counties and 55 deaths since January. Most of those affected are school children, mothers and the aged.

MOSQUITO-BORNE

The report names Garissa, Siaya, West Pokot, Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru as the worst hit counties. Others are Tharaka Nithi, Kilifi, Meru, Kirinyanga, Busia and Tana River.

The report cites effluent from submerged pit latrines as the major contributor of the cholera outbreaks.

The Kenya Red Cross has also warned of likely emergence of water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea and chikungunya -- a mosquito-borne ailment.

By the end of April, data from the Kenya Red Cross showed that about 3,000 cholera cases had been reported across the country.

The organisation also warned that flooding could exacerbate cholera outbreaks and increase the risk of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria.

SUPPLIES

In Turkana, more than 700 people, among them school children, have been admitted to various hospitals with cholera. Seven have died since January.

Humanitarians organisations such as Kenya Red Cross, World Vision and Medecins Sans have been at the forefront of campaigns to help flood victims.

Unicef has also been providing supplies for cholera management and chemicals for water treatment.

In Kajiando County, more than 10 schools have so far been closed temporarily due to floods. And in Kwale, more than 70 schools are yet to be reopen due to floods.

More than 100 primary and secondary schools in Nyandarua County are flooded, owing to swollen rivers and inadequate drainage.

POOR PLANNING

In Nairobi, eight schools were closed on Thursday following heavy rains. These are St Elizabeth, New Dawn, Community Initiative, Bright International, Bright Academy, Little Kids Primary, Viwandani and Bright Star Secondary schools.

The Nairobi county government has attributed the flooding to poor drainage, blocked systems and poor planning that diverts flood waters to estates and schools.

In Tana River counties, more than 5,000 students are yet to report to school due to floods.

Meanwhile, water levels at Masinga and seven other dams on the Tana River Basin have risen, with the regulator, Kenya Electricity Generation Company, discharging 70 cubic meters of water per second. More than 700 people could be affected by the raging waters.

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