Kenya to host the 2nd National Sanitation and Hygiene Conference to accelerate access and end open defecation

NAIROBI, Kenya, 2 February 2017 – The Ministry of Health will host the Second Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene in partnership with the Water Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC) from Monday 7th to 9th February, 2017 at Safari Park Hotel.

The conference whose theme is “accelerating access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation in Kenya,” is planned to accelerate the implementation of sanitation and hygiene programme in the country.

The conference which targets decision makers, sector professionals from all the 47 Counties, Ministries of Health, Water, Education, Partner, Non Governmental organizations, UN agencies and bilateral agencies, academic institutions and the Council of Governors will review county commitments made during the first sanitation conference in 2014 and address bottlenecks in the sector to scale up sanitation and hygiene programme in counties, strengthen advocacy for uptake of sanitation through improved partnership as well as strategize on how to achieve open Defecation Free Kenya.

The conference also plans to increase the number of open defecation free communities, lobby for prioritization of sanitation in County Development Plan, expanding partnership including engagement with private sector and provide impetus to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

The first national conference was held in 2014 to strengthen the capacity of counties and advocate for prioritization of sanitation. However although counties made commitments to accelerate sanitation, progress has been slow. Sanitation subject is fully devolved to counties under the new constitution which was adopted in 2010.

Nationally the number of certified Open Defecation Free (ODF) villages has increased from 1273 villages in 2014 to 5236 in October 2016, out of a total of 68060 villages. Currently there are 27counties which do not have a single village certified ODF which, calls for accelerating the pace of progress without further delay.

According to the Director of Environmental Health, Dr. Kefa Ombacho, the situation in urban areas related to sanitation needs a different approach compounded by multiplicity actors with overlapping roles. The widespread incidence of cholera in both rural and urban areas, which has affected 30 of the 47 counties, has also brought about the need for coordinated effort and prioritizing sanitation by counties hence the conference.

The Government through the Ministry of Health has accorded high importance to sanitation as a constitutional right which has lead to the development of a policy, strategic framework and standards and guidelines on sanitation and hygiene.

Globally, 2.4 billion people lack access to sanitation. In Kenya, only around one-third of the population has access to a hygienic and private toilet and 12 percent of population defecates in the open.  Therefore achieving universal access to basic sanitation, one of many targets in Kenya’s Vision 2030, requires a concerted effort by government, development partners, communities and households.

Sanitation has been described as the greatest medical advance in 150 years, because, just like vaccines, sanitation stops disease. The germs present in human faeces can cause a multitude of diseases including cholera, hepatitis and polio, to name but a few. The practice of open defecation is especially risky to family’s health.

Key thematic areas will be discussed in the conference; Enabling Environment: Policy, Strategy, Regulations; Monitoring and Evaluation; Post ODF Sustainability including intersectoral linkages; Monitoring &Evaluation and coordination; Sustainable Financing including business opportunities for promoting sanitation and other models such as PPP; Urban and Rural settings; Gender, Inequity, Innovation, knowledge Management among others.