Turkana, Mandera, and Kwale have been ranked top among counties with the highest number of open defecation cases according to the latest report by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Health.
The report dubbed ‘Realising Open Defecation Free Rural Kenya 2018: Achievements and the Road Ahead’ revealed that more than five million Kenyans were still practicing open defecation due to lack or shortage of proper sanitation facilities.
Turkana had the highest rate of open defaecation with 681 cases, Mandera coming in second with 356 cases, followed by Kwale with 355 cases.
Kitui, Siaya, and Busia counties were the only counties that were declared open-defecation-free.
The study showed that 15.3 percent of the 5.6 million people who practice open- defecation reside in rural areas.
West Pokot, Narok, Migori Wajir, Kilifi, and Baringo have 341, 332, 254, 233 and 206 cases, respectively.
Others are Baringo, Homa Bay, Garissa, Samburu and Marsabit with 195, 190, 186, 185 and 163, respectively.
Seventeen counties had less than 1 percent of people practicing open defaecation, representing 64,000 people.
Murang’a, Embu, Kakamega, Kiambu, Mombasa, Vihiga, Meru, Taita Taveta, Nyamira, Tharaka Nithi, Nyandarua and Kirinyanga each have less than 10 cases of open defecation.
Speaking during the release of the report, Unicef Kenya sanitation Manager Julie Aubriot said that unless the strategies in place were changed, the dream of Kenya being certified as Open-Defaecation Free by 2020 was still far from being achieved based on the current pace.
It is projected that only 21 percent of villages would be certified as open defecation-free by 2020.
The report termed investing in sanitation as a long-term solution adding that for every dollar invested in sanitation, more than $5 are returned as savings derived from communities needing less healthcare, traveling less to clinics and missing less work due to illness.
Kenya is among 26 countries in the world that are responsible for 90 percent of open defecation, an issue that has resulted into serious economic and health implications, urging a portfolio of solutions that fit rural and urban contexts.
Open defaecation has led to outbreaks of cholera and mothers losing their babies to diarrhea due to poor sanitation.
Open defecation has devastating consequences for public health. Fecal contamination of the environment and poor hygiene practices remain a leading cause of child mortality, morbidity, undernutrition, and stunting, and can potentially have negative effects on cognitive development.
Poor sanitation can also be a barrier to education and economic opportunity, with women and girls often particularly vulnerable to the consequences of poor sanitation services.
The world is currently off-track to eliminate open defecation by 2030. Between 2000 and 2015, 337 million people stopped practicing open defecation: about 22 million a year. To successfully end open defecation, at least 60 million people need to stop the practice each year between 2015 and 2030.