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Kitengela residents raise concern over rising respiratory infections

In the village of Noonkopir in Kitengela Kajiado County, trash isn’t something that vanishes to some far-off landfill in the back of a garbage truck. It stays close by.

One of the biggest dumpsites in the county is located in the area, with open burning of garbage done daily.

Medical practitioners in the area are raising concern over the increase in health problems that they see due to the waste being burned, especially among the vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and people who are already weakened by health problems.

Dr. Anne Igumba a medical practitioner at St Joan’s hospital located in the area, revealed that the burning of garbage in the open may cause respiratory infections especially to small children.

“The open burning of garbage can cause health problems including headaches, nausea and rashes. Exposure to certain toxic chemicals found in smoke, such as black carbon, dioxins and mercury are associated with some cancers and with the impairment of the immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems, among other effects,” said Dr. Igumba.

The burning of waste releases substances into the air that are toxic, many that are carcinogenic and are also called short-lived climate pollutants.

According to Modestar Boyani, a resident of the area, open littering and burning of trash has been a menace for years.

“I have lived in the area for close to five years now and this trash is going nowhere even after countless pleas to the county government and pledges to have it moved. I used to run a great business of selling chicken and chicks but had to shut down as I suffered losses due to the waste being burned here,” said Boyani.

She revealed that many of those being treated for respiratory infections were mostly children under five.

“Lately, I have been seeing children as young as two months come in with allergies, asthma and other respiratory tract infection issues. It is alarming and the government should look into it to save the health and lives of future generations,” she adds.

Residents living close to the dumpsite and business owners, particularly food sellers who shared their experience with this reporter, said they have had to endure days of unbearable stench and that they have had cases of diarrhoea on the rise.

Mercy Bosibori, a resident in the area said that she and her family often have frequent diarrhoea.

“We can’t say for sure that the dumpsite is the cause of diarrhoea but everyone I run into here complains of having the same. We used to have a seasonal river here that passes through the dumpsite and maybe after the short rains the water was able to move and get into our water collecting points and that is why there is an increase in diarrhea,” she says as she buys medication for her son.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released in April 2022 indicates that 20,613,455 cases of respiratory diseases had been reported as at December 2021, accounting for 21.9 percent disease burden in the country.

By Vivian Mbinya

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