Families without toilets in Kakamega County have been given up to February next year to construct pit latrines in their homesteads or face prosecution.
Public Health officials from the county have kicked off a campaign against open defecation in rural homes to deal with the spread of infections linked to bilharzia and intestinal parasites.
Open defecation is associated with bilharzia and intestinal parasites - which are poverty-related diseases that severely limit the ability of victims to live full and productive lives.
Even though many families cite high poverty levels as contributing to lack of latrines in their homes, public health officers emphasise that the facility is a basic requirement that each family must have.
The officials have cautioned locals to stop open defecation to minimise the spread of bilharzia.
The county government has launched a 5-day sensitisation programme that focuses on mass drug administration, treatment and control of the disease to empower communities to improve their health and alleviate suffering caused by the parasites.
In Matungu sub-county, the hospital’s Medical Superintendent John Otieno said many families were living without toilets in congested neighbourhoods.
“By owning a pit latrine, one helps keep the environment clean, prevent the spread of diseases, and enhance comfort and provision of higher levels of privacy. Open defecation is not desirable in any case and must be stopped because fields close to open water bodies get contaminated and pollute the environment,” said Dr Otieno.
The devolved unit has hired Community Health Volunteers (CHVs), religious and opinion leaders and youth groups to engage the communities in the sensitisation campaign.
They have asked people to practice regular hand washing to avoid water-borne diseases and avoid crowding which contributes to the spread of infections and other communicable diseases.
“School going children bear the brunt of long term effects should they get infected with the soil-related parasites because they will miss classes and lead to economic burden to their parents,” said Mr Kelvin Lumwaji, the Matungu sub-county public health officer.
“Construction of latrines was perceived as an expensive undertaking with health-related reasons playing a minor role in the decision-making process. Some families are just lazy as they claimed not able to access the required material for a toilet,” he said.