WAMBA, Kenya, June 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Poor weather, safety threats and bad streets have created disposing of this Wamba district hospital’s medical waste a challenge.
The nearest incineration is about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away and “travelling wasn’t possible during heavy rains because connecting roads were cut off by flooding,” said Stephen Lesrumat, a medic at the hospital.
But now the north-central Kenyan hospital has a solution to its difficulties, and a means of cutting climate changing emissions and deforestation: A high-efficiency medical waste incineration that uses just a fifth time the fuel of a conventional incineration.
The wood burner, that takes advantage of strong winds in the area to drive the flames, borrows technology from fuel-efficient stoves. It can safely eliminate waste made by this Wamba hospital and by 22 other health centres in Samburu County, said Lesrumat and Ibrahim Lokomoi, the facility’s engineer.
“It has reduced the burden of travelling away from the county to eliminate medical waste,” Lesrumat said, sparing hospitals a potentially dangerous build-up of medical waste during periods when roads are impassible.
During previous flood periods, when hospital waste couldn’t be transported, “I was stressed because the waste is poisonous,” Lesrumat explained. “it might lead to health and environment harm if it inadvertently spilled into the community. ”
Run-ins with al Shabaab militants may 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 that the government struggles to provide solutions,” said Onyango Okoth the assistant commissioner of Samburu County.
Currently the Wamba incineration manages between 5 and 20 kilograms of medical waste a 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.
Viewing the last batch of waste is all but eliminated, he reaches for a barrel containing an assortment of rubber gloves, syringes and polythene waste, pours in a number of the waste, mixes it with a forked rod and then replaces the lid to permit the incineration to continue.
The Centers for Diseases Control in Kenya quotes that each and every patient admitted in a hospital creates at least 0.5 kilograms of medical waste.
The following step, Kenyan fresh energy experts say, is to begin incinerating waste using even more renewable sources of electricity, such as solar power.
“Kenya is investing heavily in alternative energy sources,” said Johnson Kimani of this Kenya Climate Change Working Group. “Solar and biogas must be factored in to medical waste incineration if the government is committed to its assurance of attaining a green economy. ”
James Lebasha, of the International Medical Corps, that helped assemble the Wamba incineration, said the burner may be just the very first for the area.
“We aspire to build additional units in morthern Kenya to allow communities access this service,” he explained. (Reporting by Kagondu Njagi; editing by Laurie Goering:; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers diplomatic information, climate change, girls ’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)