Residents of Maragua town in Murang’a County have issued a one-week ultimatum to the authorities to stop dumping biomedical waste at a site near their homes.
In an October 23 letter to the county government, which is copied to the Maragua sub-county administrator and security committee, they say their health, environment and dignity have been compromised by the dumpsite.
“Every day, lorries carrying medical waste report to the area to dump highly risky waste. Among them are highly infectious waste materials that contain pathogens from laboratory cultures, isolation wards and swabs,” says the letter from residents coordinator Omar Maluki.
They say they do not understand why all hospitals in Murang’a would be permitted by officials to pool all biomedical waste and transport it to Maragua to dump it in an open field.
The letter also says the waste contains body parts, especially from amputations, foetuses, and blood and other body fluids.
“We are tired of waking up to orgies of dogs, rats and wild cats dragging human limbs and foetuses on the village paths from this dumpsite,” the letter says.
Other waste found at the dumpsite includes sharp objects like needles, infusion sets, scalpels, knives, blades and broken glass.
Nation.Africa observed piles of waste emitting an unbearable stench and streams of runoff seeping from underneath and snaking to the nearby road after nightlong rains.
Murang’a Health Executive Joseph Mbai said the waste is supposed to be incinerated at that dumpsite “but we have a slight challenge that we are addressing”.
Murang’a South Sub-County Administrator Michael Gakungu said the incinerator has not been operational for a while.
“We are trying our level best to have it repaired. Meanwhile, we are coordinating among relevant stakeholders to first suspend the dumping on that site so as to address the crisis,” he said.
The donor-procured incinerator, he said, is of low capacity and was overwhelmed by the volumes of waste deposited at the site.
Would raise the matter
But Mr Maluki said the explanation was lame, wondering why the county government does not procure incinerators for all Level Four and Level Five hospitals to ease the burden of waste disposal.
"Private hospitals should be directed to invest in their own waste disposal facilities. We should not have a situation where more than two Level Four hospitals are pooling their biomedical waste and we don’t want Maragua to be the county's medical filth dumpsite," Maragua Young Aspirants Association chairman Edwin Murira said.
Assistant County Commissioner Joshua Okello said he would raise the matter with the Public Health Department.
“By all measures, one cannot defend that dumpsite. It is unnecessary and a grave threat to life and the environment. I am doing all my best to engage those directly responsible for the mess,” he said.
Murang’a South Deputy County Commissioner Mawira Mungania said he was planning to visit the site and summon all responsible to explain whether it is a designated dumpsite.
He will also inquire whether the views of the public were sought before the site was established and if it has the required environmental and public health approvals.
“The reports we are getting from the ground are very disturbing. The picture we have is that some quarters are running an open-air mortuary on that land,” he said.
“We are engaging the county government, because it is directly responsible but with supervision from us in the central government.”
According to the colour code adopted from the World Health Organization for packing biomedical waste, infectious waste is supposed to be packed in yellow, strong leak-proof plastic bags with a biohazard symbol on it.
Bags of this same colour are also used to pack pathological and sharp waste. It is the most dominant colour on bags at the Maragua dumpsite, explaining why residents are worried.