Archive for November 12th, 2008

Dandora Dumpsite Poses Serious Threat to Public Health and Environment

Posted on 12 November 2008. Filed under: Environment, Public Health |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
The Dandora municipal waste site in Nairobi continues to pose environmental and health risks

NAIROBI, 11 November 2008 (IRIN) – The Dandora municipal waste site east of Nairobi continues to pose environmental and health risks even after a study recommended its closure, said specialists.

“The dumpsite is a big, big health problem and it has had a very bad impact on the environment,” Njoroge Kimani, a biochemist, said, adding that the unrestricted dumping of domestic, industrial, hospital and agricultural waste at the city’s main dumping site was cause for concern.

“The land cannot be used for domestic and agricultural use,” Kimani told IRIN.

The dumpsite occupies about 30 acres, with at least 2,000 tonnes of waste deposited daily. It is near the informal settlements of Kariobangi north and Korogocho, as well as the Dandora and Baba ndogo residential estates.

Kimani, who was the principal investigator in a 2007 study of the site, said it had significantly affected the environment and people living nearby. “The waste clogs the drainage systems, and spreads all over into the residential areas.” The Nairobi River, which passes near the dumpsite, has also been polluted by waste seeping into it.

Impact

The study, commissioned by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), revealed that soil samples collected from the site recorded high levels of lead compared with reference standards in the Netherlands and Taiwan. Similar findings were reported for other heavy metals.

Tests conducted on 328 children and adolescents living and attending school near the dumpsite revealed a significant health impact, Kimani said, with 154 suffering respiratory problems.

''Tests conducted on 328 children and adolescents living and attending school near the dumpsite revealed a significant health impact… with 154 suffering respiratory problems''

“When the waste is burnt, toxic gases are formed and it is very noxious,” he said. “Many of them were suffering from respiratory abnormalities, many had blocked airways.”

According to the study, medical records obtained from the Catholic Church dispensary at Kariobangi showed that an average 9,121 people were treated for respiratory tract-related problems in 2003-2006.

Cases of skin disorders, abdominal problems and eye infections were also common among those tested. Malaria could be another threat, Kimani said, since blocked drains collected water and became breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Relocation plan

The government however, is planning to relocate the site as part of its integrated solid waste management plan in partnership with UNEP.

“We shall move it to a sanitary land site in Ruai [on the outskirts of Nairobi city] in the next two years,” Francis N Kihumba, the Chemicals and Waste Co-coordinator at the Ministry of Environment, said. The government is first planning an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the new site, which is at least 200 acres, he said.

“Once we have completed the EIA, the Dandora site will be decommissioned,” he said, adding that the new site would protect the land, air and water from the impact of solid waste and also provide recycling facilities.


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
This resident has been earning a living from the Dandora dumpsite for the last 12 years

The assessment will take three months and transfer stations for the waste would be identified. The relocation, he said, would cost the government at least KSh4 billion [US$53 million].

“The old site could be used for recreation,” he added.

The relocation however, was not welcomed by Livingstone Waweru, who lives at the dump. “It will affect us seriously, I have to start afresh,” he said. “They want to recycle? They should hire us instead.”

Waweru, like many others, ekes out a living from unloading garbage from the 40 trucks which deliver waste daily. He also sells scrap metal, cables and bottles to brokers who resell them to the large industries.

Immediate measures such as fencing off the Dandora dumpsite to prevent intruders, restricting some of the industrial and hospital waste, recycling and proper waste management, would minimise the risk of environmental pollution that threatens human health, Akumu said.

“It is a threat and it’s going to continue to be, unless we do something about it,” she said.

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First Ever Malaria Vaccine Finally Ready for Trial

Posted on 12 November 2008. Filed under: Governance, Public Health |

After hundreds of millions of dollars and years of work, the first malaria vaccine is ready to test. Sixteen thousand children are set to be vaccinated in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania — African countries where malaria is a serious problem.

Preliminary tests have shown that this particular vaccine — one of several candidates funded partly through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – is 30-50 % effective. Some worry those rates are too low to make a big impact.

But there is a strong case to make for any amount of effectiveness at all. Malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, is no small matter in countries where the disease is prevalent. Many experts argue that the economic impact in endemic countries contributes greatly to underdevelopment — taking workers out of the workplace and reducing childrens’ attentiveness in school.

And although malaria is a treatable condition, the best medicines are sometimes too expensive for poor victims of the disease. There is also a problem of quality: A recent study found that medicines in six African countries are either diluted or inneffective. And since there are multiple, constantly adapting strains of the disease, resistance to drugs is common. Quinine and chloroquine, used to treat malaria throughout colonial times, now have virtually no impact on the disease.

So, even if it’s not 100% effective, a vaccine is a dream for public-health experts struggling to keep up with the changing disease that kills more than a million people every year and leaves many more sick. Here’s hoping it works.

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