The cholera outbreak that has engulfed some 12 counties has caused a real scare. Worse, Nairobi, the capital, is the epicentre, so far, recording the highest number of cases. The disease has killed at least four people, while about 80 are admitted to various health facilities, the majority at the Kenyatta National Hospital. Cholera, an infectious disease, is caused by consuming contaminated food or drink.
It is basically a consequence of poor hygiene – improper sanitation, overcrowding or an unclean environment. It is absurd that in this day and age, Kenya can be ravaged by a disease caused by poor hygiene and that despite the high level of medical care, it cannot be contained. Clearly, this is a terrible indictment of the national and county leaderships. But this should not be surprising. Nairobi is one big mass of filth and sludge. Uncollected garbage is piled up everywhere. Open sewers and burst water pipes are the norm, while clean water is mostly unavailable. All markets that supply city residents with food are pathetically dirty.
Unfortunately, the response to the crisis has been painfully slow and uncoordinated. On Wednesday, Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu closed two city restaurants that supplied food to the trade expo at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre last week, which infected several people with cholera, including two Cabinet Secretaries. But that is being reactive rather than proactive. What has he and his team been doing all along? Why the lethargy?
The first highly publicised outbreak was reported at Weston Hotel in Nairobi last month and paradoxically affected doctors attending a conference. Unfortunately, the health authorities did nothing to avert further occurrences. The hotel was never sanctioned. We now find ourselves in an awkward situation because of procrastination. We need quick responses to contain the outbreak. The Ministry of Health and Nairobi county’s health department must mount an inspection of all eateries and water sources and close those that do not meet the required standards. They must also boost public education to sensitise the people on the disease.