Toilet vandalism exacerbates Hepatitis outbreak

The environmental health practitioner at the City of Windhoek, Lion Kahimise has urged people living in the informal settlements to take care of toilets and water tanks installed in response to the outbreak of Hepatitis E.

Speaking at a recent briefing held by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS), Kahimise said they tallied 391 broken toilets at the initial outbreak of Hepatitis E, which they have all repaired. But after some time, Kahimise said it was noted 50 percent of the repaired toilets have been re-vandalised.

Of the 37 water tanks put up in the epicentre (Havana and Goreangab), four taps were reported as having been stolen.

So far, 17 deaths have been reported because of Hepatitis E, 147 lab confirmed cases and there are 1867 cumulative cases countrywide.

Last February, a local daily newspaper reported that people living in the informal settlement were vandalising and stealing portable toilets provided to them in efforts to improve sanitation.

Kahimise added that this is a concerted effort by all the stakeholders, the MoHSS, Khomas Regional Council, United Nations organisations and UNFPA amongst others. We are asking the community to take ownership and make sure the facility that are brought to them are properly protected. It is not necessarily that you are breaking something that came from the ministry and the ministry is going to feel the pinch. If you break the toilet, you are the one exposed to Hepatitis E and you are the one going to get ill if you do not clean it. Don’t expect someone from upper town to come clean it for you, while you are the one at risk, remarked Kahimise, adding that taking ownership will make the project sustainable. He also added that in hard economic situation such as now were resources are hard to come by, people should appreciate such efforts.

Speaking at the same event, Minister of health Bernard Haufiku also said ongoing vandalism and theft of implemented water and sanitation infrastructures are some of the major challenges preventing the effective containment of the Hepatitis E outbreak in Windhoek.

Haufiku said the outbreak was first declared in Windhoek on December 14, 2017 and since then, sporadic cases were being reported throughout the country. He said the extensive spread of the outbreak to other parts of the country is attributed to cases from the epicentre (Havana and Goreangab) travelling and thereby spreading the infection to at risk populations.

The main drivers that were identified for the Windhoek Hepatitis E outbreak include open defecation, poor sanitation and the lack of proper hygiene.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia