What you need to know:
- Piles of medical waste including syringes, needles, blood test samples, used gloves, wound dressing gauze, face masks and cotton wool are scattered around the site
- Open disposal of medical waste acts as a conduit of infections in the community
Residents of Gikeu in Othaya, Nyeri County are up in arms over rampant open disposal of medical waste in the area.
When the Nation visited the site, piles of medical waste including syringes, needles, blood test samples, used gloves, wound dressing gauze, face masks and cotton wool were scattered around the site.
The residents said the dumpsite poses a health risk to members of the public, especially children, as medical waste can be toxic, hazardous or infectious.
“The gates are not usually locked so anyone has access to this place and even children come here. They pick them as toys which exposes them to health risks. This is very dangerous but no one cares,” David Wachira, a resident said.
According to Mr Wachira, calls by locals to have better management of waste at the dumpsite have gone answered as the situation worsens. The waste trucks, accompanied by police, now also dump medical waste at the site.
“We fought for long and things got worse when they started dumping the waste with police escort. But now they have started dumping even medical waste from clinics and labs,” he added.
Medical centres are supposed to separate their waste due to the varied nature of disposal needed for given medical waste.
Some of the waste, like medical gauzes and surgical masks should be burned while others need to be incinerated and others treated chemically.
When reached for comment, Nyeri County health services CEC Dr Kwai Wanjaria warned that medical facilities within the county disposing their waste the wrong way will have their licenses withdrawn.
“Once the culprits are identified, their licenses will be withdrawn because that [open disposal of medical waste] is against the law and we cannot condone it,” he said.
His words were echoed by the health services director Dr Nelson Muriu who said that the county had a plan to ensure facilities without incinerators get the services.
“We had negotiations and those facilities without incinerators are able to bring their waste to the public hospitals for incineration at a cost. This was so as to avoid open disposal of medical waste which is unhygienic,” Dr Muriu said.
Gikeu is one of the only two dumpsites in Nyeri county, the other one being Karidundu in Karatina, after the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) closed the Asian Quarters dumpsite and the county started the construction of a Sh600 million bus terminus in its place.
Initially, the Gikeu dumpsite was a slaughterhouse but it was closed because it was inaccessible due to flooding.
According to the residents, the then county council started dumping one truck of garbage in a week from Othaya municipality but as the town grew, so did the dumpsite.
“Today, they bring up to five lorries in a day and dump it all here. Previously, there was no perimeter fence and the trucks would just dump on the road,” a resident who sort anonymity said.
Dr Susan Mambo, a public health expert says that improper disposal of medical waste acts as a conduit of infections in the community. This, she says, is because the waste is a source of potentially dangerous micro-organisms that can infect anyone they come into contact with.
“People [at the dumpsite] can be exposed to medical waste through injuries such as cuts or pricks by needles, through contact with the skin or mucous membranes, through inhalation or through ingestion,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) at least 16 billion injections are administered worldwide every year. However, not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed after use.