WAMBA, Kenya, June 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Poor weather, safety threats and bad roads are made disposing of the Wamba district hospital’s health waste a challenge.
The closest incinerator is roughly 200 kilometres (125 miles) away and “travelling was not possible during heavy rains since linking roads were cut away from floods,” said Stephen Lesrumat, a medic at the hospital.
But today the north-central Kenyan hospital has an answer to its problems, and also a way of cutting climate changing emissions and deforestation: A high-efficiency medical waste incinerator which uses just a fifth time the fuel of a conventional incinerator.
The wood burner, that takes advantage of powerful winds from the area to drive the flames, borrows technology from fuel-efficient stoves. It can safely eliminate waste made by the Wamba hospital and from 22 other health centres in Samburu County, said Lesrumat and Ibrahim Lokomoi, the centre ’s engineer.
“It’s decreased the burden of travelling away from the county to eliminate medical waste,” Lesrumat said, sparing hospitals a possibly dangerous build-up of medical waste during periods when roads are impassible.
During previous flood periods, when hospital waste couldn’t be transported, “I had been worried since the waste is toxic,” Lesrumat explained. “It could cause environment and health damage if it inadvertently spilled into the community. ”
Run-ins with al Shabaab militants can also be a hazard for some healthcare workers in Kenya driving long distances in their jobs, medics said.
“Northern Kenya is quite expansive and has so many challenges which the government struggles to deliver services,” said Onyango Okoth the assistant commissioner of Samburu County.
Now the Wamba incinerator manages between 5 and 20 kilograms of medical waste every day.
Since the burner operates, a young worker clad in protective clothing flips open the lid of the room to monitor the practice of incineration.
Seeing the previous batch of waste is all but removed, he reaches for a cone containing a variety of used rubber gloves, syringes and polythene waste, pours in a number of the waste, mixes it with a forked rod then replaces the lid to permit the incineration to continue.
The next step, Kenyan clean energy experts say, may be to begin incinerating waste using even more sustainable sources of electricity, such as solar power.
“Kenya is investing heavily in alternative energy sources,” said Johnson Kimani of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group. “Solar and biogas should be factored into medical waste incineration in the event the government is committed to the assurance of achieving a green market. ”
James Lebasha, of the International Medical Corps, that helped assemble the Wamba incinerator, said the burner might be just the first for the area.
“We aspire to build more units in morthern Kenya to allow communities access this support,” he explained. (Reporting from Kagondu Njagi; editing by Laurie Goering:Please charge the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate modification, women’s rights, trafficking and corruption.
“We hope to build more units in morthern Kenya to enable communities access this service,” he said. (Reporting by Kagondu Njagi; editing by Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women’s rights, trafficking and corruption. Visit www.trust.org/climate)