Health And Sanitation: We Kill Ourselves In Killing The Environment


There is a crying need to take better care of self by taking care of the environment. The hygiene and sanitation state of our environment has a direct link to the health of the residents in that environment. Many of the health hazards and diseases we incur are a product of our own doing, we brought it upon ourselves because we did something wrong or failed to something at all. As a matter of fact there is a whole category of human diseases that are caused poor hygiene, these are called infectious diseases. As suggested by the name, these diseases are highly communicable in that we can contract them through human contact with those that already have them. What is in poor sanitation you ask? The primary inhabitants of unhygienic places include bacteria, viruses and parasites. These disease-causing agents then find their way in the air we breathe, the water we drink until they find homage in our bodies where they rapidly reproduce and affect the normal functioning of the body.

We are as good as the environment we live in. So maybe you wash your hands, drink a lot of water, run for an hour on the treadmill listening to Lady Gaga but all that is in vain if your environment is not well taken care of. We have regretfully done nothing as far as public health is concerned; as a matter of fact, the public health has been on a constant detour. Have you been to the Nairobi Arboretum? A few years ago there was a stream of clean water; you could hardly resist the urge to dip your feet in the water to feel the cold water rush through your feet. Today, not only is there no flow of water, the place is a pool of stagnant water littered with every kind of filth imaginable. There is a sickening stench (no pan intended). Mosquitoes have in turn made it their home so more malaria for us. The arboretum is a good example of what water human encroachment can do. The dirty stream of diapers, tampons and sewerage waste is now the boundary between plush apartments and green trees of the Nairobi Arboretum; the clear indication of the conflict between the human lifestyle and the quest to conserve the environment.

We need to have good sanitation practices. Image from

If you think your environment is only affecting you, then you had better think again. There are monkeys at the Nairobi Arboretum. I am pretty sure they are not provided with Dasani bottles for drinking water. We have become the proverbial preachers of water who drink wine. We have laid a lot of emphasis on the talk about environment conservation but for some reason, we have refused to walk the talk and we wonder who among us is holding us back. Before public health and sanitation is made a collective responsibility of the public, it has to be owned by the individual. The reason we continue to sweat over a losing battle is because of complacency. We think that if only I throw a candy wrapper out a moving vehicle the effect will be meagre or unnoticeable. This slight level of complacency is what a good number of us display, it then translates to a good number of candy wrappers that eventually choke the environment before its ricochet effect bounces back and blows up in our faces a good number of times.

Compare and contrast. Image from
Dirty environment. Image from

Simple acts such as proper disposal of small wastes such as candy wrappers are what translates to bigger interventions of environmental conservation, public health and sanitation such as proper government policies intended to mitigate pollution. We, however, skip some steps and jump right into government policies that end up being poorly implemented, we later participate in the millennium development goals formation to fool the world and ourselves how much we are doing to help save the environment. If much of what we have written on papers and discuss in public debates on environmental conservation were to be implemented we would have saved the environment because we both know the environment in that theoretical world is as good as new.

“Sanitation is more important than independence,” Mahatma Gandhi.

We have brought much of the death and diseases we experience upon ourselves. We have not been dealt a bad hand. If we took better care of the environment we would reduce the universal amount of deaths and diseases by close to half. Statistics show that sub-Saharan Africa was home 90% malaria cases and 92% malaria-related deaths. About 1.7 to billion cases of diarrhoea occur every year globally and developing nations such as Kenya take the greater effect of the blow. We kill ourselves in killing the environment. We need to take sanitation and public health a lot more seriously and bring the war we have waged on paper into the actual environment.

What is your contribution to health and sanitation in your community?  You can do more for your city! Check out this page for a chance to win cool prizes and make your area a better place.

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Onduu Oluoch is a writer, poet and human rights activist obsessed with being black and African. He is currently a student pursuing linguistics media and communication at Moi University. He is an ardent reader of African literature and believes the whole point of life is being part of a good story.