Monday October 21, 2019

Kenyan Youth Group Clean Garbage while Creating Jobs for Unemployed

While taking a break from carrying garbage cans, Mutisia says that collecting waste is a dire necessity

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FILE - Children stand amid trash in a building earmarked for demolition in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya, May 17, 2016. VOA

According to the United Nations, uncollected garbage is a growing problem in cities around the globe, especially in areas with fast-rising populations. But there are solutions, as a youth group in Kenya’s capital is demonstrating.

“My name is Isaac Mutisia. I am 35 years old, and I am the co-founder of the Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group.”

We’re in the Mathare slum of Nairobi. Six-story high brick apartment buildings are around us. Ladies are selling groceries, and men are selling plastics.

Isaac Mutisia and his colleagues enter a building and climb the narrow stairs. They come out with a big dustbin full of garbage emitting an obnoxious stench.

Some 200,000 people are believed to live in Mathare, in an area of just 2 square kilometers. The slum is not only congested with people, but also with their garbage.

According to the United Nations, one city dweller produces 1 kilogram of garbage per day. For Mathare, it means that every day 200,000 kilograms of trash finds its way into a public space.

While taking a break from carrying garbage cans, Mutisia says that collecting waste is a dire necessity.

“When you have a lot of people in one area and there is no proper way of handling waste, you find that everyone dumps waste everywhere,” he said.

Mutisia says the waste was piling up on street corners and illegal dumping sites. Doctors warn about the health effects of garbage, especially for children.

Doris Shiundi is a physician in a local clinic. In the next room a nurse is giving a sick baby a checkup.

“When you have a lot of garbage on the street like here in Mathare, most of the times we see patients who come here with diarrhea, sometimes cholera. Others come in with food poisoning because they eat on the street,” she said.

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FILE – A student empties a dustbin next to a murky stream near a school in Kenya’s Kibera slums in capital Nairobi, Sept. 21, 2015. VOA

This situation led Mutisia to do something to clean up the garbage, and at the same time meet another challenge.

“We saw the importance of making our community clean and also creating employment among ourselves because there was a challenge of unemployment,” he said.

Mutisia now has 100 youths collecting waste in the area, making money from households that pay to have their trash hauled away. Once collected, the waste is brought to a legal dumping site.

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The youths’ effort has caught the attention of local government officials, like Thomas Arimu. “We encourage the youths to copy what Kaka is doing to the neighboring community so that it becomes healthy,” he said.

Mutisia, meanwhile, is on the way to his next mission, visiting the U.N.-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi to talk about Mathare’s public spaces. His dream is to make the area as clean and green as the United Nations compound in Nairobi. (VOA)

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Kenya Starts Mass Vaccination of Girls against Human Papilloma Virus

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the vaccine roll-out a major milestone in the fight

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Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
FILE - Children watch as another child is vaccinated in the town of Liboi, Kenya, July 27, 2011. Kenyan authorities on Friday launched a mass vaccination program against the human papilloma virus, or HPV. VOA

Kenyan authorities have begun a mass vaccination of girls against the human papilloma virus, HPV, which causes cervical cancer. According to the World Health Organization, the East Africa region has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the world. Kenya.

Kenya officially launched its HPV vaccination program Friday in the coastal town of Mombasa.

The vaccine will be administered free to all 10-year-old girls as part of the country’s routine immunization schedule. Girls will get the vaccine in two doses, six months apart.

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the vaccine roll-out a major milestone in the fight against non-communicable diseases.

Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
The vaccine will be administered free to all 10-year-old girls as part of the country’s routine immunization schedule. Girls will get the vaccine in two doses, six months apart. VOA

“Access to the HPV vaccine by our girls will lead to the reduction of number of new cervical cancer cases and secure lives of our daughters and sisters,” he said. “This means that our young women who are critical to the future of our nation will be protected from early deaths.”

Kenya’s Ministry of Health says the vaccinations will cost about $7.7 million this year.

Dr. Collins Tabu, head of the National Vaccine Immunization Program in Kenya, touted the benefits of the program in a talk with reporters.

“The introduction of HPV vaccine within our setup has potential to cut back the burden of cervical cancer by close to 70 percent,” Tabu said. “If we achieve a good enough coverage, of about 80 percent.”

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He said at least seven women die every day through cervical cancer in Kenya.

“The human papilloma virus, the most common sexually transmitted disease with a prevalence of close to 50 percent within our borders, is the primary cause of more than 99 percent of all of the cervical cancers. There is a direct link, as we know today,” he said.

At least 115 other countries routinely administer the vaccine, including Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. Tabu said because of the vaccine, Rwanda has nearly eliminated cervical cancer.

Kenya has moved more slowly, possibly because of debates around the safety of vaccines.  Earlier this decade, the Catholic Church in Kenya called for a boycott of a polio vaccination drive.

Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
Kenya officially launched its HPV vaccination program Friday in the coastal town of Mombasa. Pixabay

“It’s a bit embarrassing that Kenya may be the last or second last East African country to introduce the vaccine that is supposed to protect our girls against cervical cancer,” Tabu said.

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During Friday’s launch, Kenyatta dismissed claims the HPV vaccine might be unsafe, telling the crowd, “Let us not fight science.” (VOA)