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Nairobians do not wash their hands before they eat

Many Nairobians are likely to munch a chunk of nyama choma or eat a piece of roasted maize before washing their hands.

This is a peculiar habit especially among adults which has threatened to derail efforts by the government to reduce diarrhoea cases in the country.

According to Dr Steward Kabaka from the Neonatal and Adolescent Health Unit, the prevalence rate for diarrhoea is growing by the day.

“We have noted with a lot of concern that diarrhoea which is not supposed to be killing our people is becoming a problem not only in  Nairobi, but other parts of the country,” he said during the launch of a diarrhoea mass communication campaign in Makadara Health Center on Friday.

Diarrhoea is a highly infectious disease; it is the second leading cause of death among children aged below five years.

According to Dr Kabaka, the only way to reverse this trend is through practicing proper hygiene.

“The issue of concern is how people conduct themselves daily. How we prepare our food, how we eat it and how we dispose waste,” he said.

“During our surveys, we have visited different eateries across the country and what we have observed is quite interesting. People preparing to eat nyama choma just wipe their hands on their clothes claiming ‘there are no germs’ and proceed to eat,” he added.

Diarrhoea infections

The same applies to hundreds of Nairobi residents who have picked  the dangerous habit of consuming food from food hawkers on the streets or in their neighbourhoods.

The trend is worrying experts campaigning to reduce and control diarrhoea infections in the country at a time when there is great need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

“Presently, 39,000 children below the age of five years die from diarrhoea, translating to 100 children per day,” said Cabinet Secretary for Health Dr James Macharia in a speech read on his behalf by Dr William Maina.

The numbers is high given that less than two out of five mothers or guardians use preventative measures like giving sick children oral rehydration salts (ORS), said UNICEF representative in Kenya Mr Peter Okoth.

Experts called for the government to re-introduce the diarrhoea corner in hospitals and called on the public to embrace healthy habits like washing hands and seeking treatment whenever diarrhoea strikes.