Health and Sanitation

Kenya is a developing country in East Africa with a population of about 53 million. Despite its vibrant culture and beautiful landscapes, Kenya faces several health and hygiene challenges that affect the quality of life of its citizens. The purpose of this article is to examine the importance of health and hygiene, the challenges Kenya faces in this area, and the solutions that can improve the health and well-being of Kenyans.

The Importance of Health and Sanitation

Good health and hygiene practices are essential to human well-being. Access to clean water, proper waste disposal and adequate sanitation can help prevent the spread of disease and infection. Additionally, good hygiene practices such as regular hand washing can reduce the risk of illness. Healthy living conditions promote physical, mental and social well-being and leads to a better quality of life 

Challenges to health and sanitation in Kenya

Kenya faces several challenges in terms of health and sanitation.

  •  Water borne diseases – The country has a high incidence of water-borne diseases such as
    cholera and typhoid fever due to limited access to clean water and poor sanitation.
    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 43% of Kenyans lack access to basic
    sanitation and only 62% of have access to clean water. Additionally, many Kenyans live in
    overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, increasing the risk of disease transmission.
  • Poor waste management – Many areas lack adequate waste collection and disposal systems, causing waste to accumulate in public spaces and informal settlements This can attract bugs, insects, and other disease vectors, contributing to the spread of disease.

Sanitation and Hygiene challenges in Slums

The United Nation Habitat (2006) have described sanitation and hygiene challenges in slums in terms of poor basic services resulting in lack of access to sanitation facilities or safe water sources. This is due to the lack of waste collection services, a poor rain water drainage system, poor infrastructure and absence of an electricity supply. Substandard and inadequate houses have been built in slums with temporary materials which are unsuitable for conditions such as straw roofs, mud, earthen floors and plaster.


Overcrowding and congestion result in too little space per person, expensive housing rates. The cohabitation of different families and more single rooms. One room-unit in slums is often shared by five people whom they use for cooking, sleeping and living. The lack of basic services, visible and open sewers, the lack of pathways, the uncontrolled dumping of waste and polluted environments, result in unhealthy living and hazardous living conditions. Houses may be built in dangerous locations which are unsuitable for a human settlement; for example, near waste disposal sites.

Poverty or financial status is considered with some exceptions, as major features of slums. They cause slum conditions. Some socially excluded areas are thought to have increased risks of crime and other forms of social dislocation.

Solutions to health and sanitation challenges in Kenya

The Kenyan government, NGOs and other stakeholders have taken several actions to address the
country’s health and hygiene challenges. Some of them are:

  • Providing access to clean water: Government and non-governmental organizations are
    implementing various programs to improve access to clean water in rural and urban areas.
    These initiatives include drilling wells, building water storage tanks, and rehabilitating
    existing water systems.
  • Promoting Good Hygiene Practices: Health education campaigns are being conducted in different parts of the country to promote good hygiene. These practices are such as hand washing, good food handling and waste disposal. This is to prevent the spread of diseases and infections..
  • Improving Sanitation: The government and NGOs built public toilets, shower blocks and hand washing stations in informal settlements to improve hygiene. We also have programs to encourage the use of toilets and proper waste disposal.
  • Promoting good waste management: Various initiatives are underway to promote good
    waste management practices. These include waste collection and disposal programs, and
    recycling initiatives.
Healthcare delivery systems

The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Kenya is responsible for providing health care to the community population. Kenyatta National Hospital, the biggest referral hospital in East and Central Africa, is close to the Kibera slum which is the second largest slum in Africa. Other health care facilities in the slum include: health clinics, dispensaries, maternity homes, nursing homes, medical centres, laboratories and radiological services, dental clinics which are owned by non-governmental organizations and private individuals. Attempts have been made to improve the healthcare system in slums by the Kenyan government, non-governmental institutions and the private sector. Health care facilities are licensed by the Ministry of Health if they meet the requirements of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). However, most of the private facilities operate illegally, thus leading to malpractice and poor quality of health.

The demand for health care services is due to HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition, respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases, perinatal diseases and accidents.