WAMBA, Kenya, June 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Poor weather, security threats and poor roads have made disposing of the Wamba district hospital’s medical waste a challenge.
The nearest incinerator is about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away and “travelling was not possible during heavy rains because linking roads were cut off by flooding,” stated Stephen Lesrumat, a medic in the hospital.
But now the north-central Kenyan hospital has a solution to its problems, and a means of cutting climate changing emissions and deforestation: A high-efficiency medical waste incinerator that uses just a fifth the fuel of a traditional incinerator.
The wood burner, which takes advantage of strong winds in the area to push the flames, borrows technology from fuel-efficient stoves. It can safely eliminate waste produced by the Wamba hospital and by 22 other health centers in Samburu County, stated Lesrumat and Ibrahim Lokomoi, the facility’s engineer.
“It has reduced the burden of traveling outside 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 flooding periods, when hospital waste could not be transported, “I was stressed because the waste is toxic,” Lesrumat stated. “It could lead to health and environment damage if it accidentally spilled into the community. ”
Run-ins with al Shabaab militants can also be a danger for some healthcare workers in Kenya driving long distances in their jobs, medics said.
“Northern Kenya is extremely expansive and has numerous challenges that the government struggles to provide services,” stated Onyango Okoth the assistant commissioner of Samburu County.
Currently the Wamba incinerator handles between 5 and 20 kilograms of medical waste a day.
As the burner works, a young employee clad in protective clothing flips open the lid of the chamber to monitor the process of incineration.
Seeing the last batch of waste is all but eliminated, he reaches for a cone containing a variety of used rubber gloves, syringes and polythene waste, pours in some of the waste, mixes it with a forked pole and then replaces the lid to allow the incineration to continue.
The Centers for Diseases Control in Kenya estimates that every patient admitted in a hospital generates at least 0.5 kilograms of medical waste.
The next step, Kenyan clean energy experts say, may be to start incinerating waste using more sustainable sources of energy, such as solar energy.
“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 if the government is committed to its pledge of achieving a green market. ”
James Lebasha, of the International Medical Corps, which helped assemble the Wamba incinerator, said the burner might be just the first for the area.
“We hope to build more units in morthern Kenya to allow 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.
“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)