WAMBA, Kenya, June 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Poor weather, security threats and bad roads have made disposing of the Wamba district hospital’s medical waste a challenge.
The nearest incinerator is about 200 kilometres (125 miles) off and “travelling was not possible during heavy rains since linking roads were cut off by floods,” said Stephen Lesrumat, a medic at the hospital.
But now the north-central Kenyan hospital has an answer to its difficulties, and also a way of cutting climate changing emissions and deforestation: A high-efficiency medical waste incinerator which uses a fifth the fuel of a traditional incinerator.
The wood burner, which takes advantage of strong winds from the area to push the flames, borrows technology from fuel-efficient stoves. It can safely eliminate waste made by the Wamba hospital and from 22 other health centres in Samburu County, said Lesrumat and Ibrahim Lokomoi, the facility’s engineer.
“It has reduced the burden of traveling outside the county to get rid of medical waste,” Lesrumat said, sparing hospitals a potentially dangerous build-up of medical waste during periods when roads are impassible.
During preceding flooding periods, when hospital waste could not be transported, “I was worried since the waste is poisonous,” Lesrumat explained. “It could lead to environment and health damage if it inadvertently spilled to the community. ”
Run-ins with al Shabaab militants can also be a hazard for some medical employees in Kenya driving long distances in their jobs, medics said.
“Northern Kenya is extremely expansive and has numerous challenges which the government struggles to provide services,” said 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 worker clad in protective garments flips open the lid of the room to monitor the process of incineration.
Seeing the previous batch of waste is all but removed, he reaches for a cone containing a variety of rubber gloves, syringes and polythene waste, pours in some of their waste, combines it with a forked rod then replaces the lid to permit the incineration to continue. The National Environment Management Authority requires every health facility to dispose of medical waste through incineration.
The next step, Kenyan fresh energy experts say, may be to start incinerating waste using more renewable sources of energy, such as solar energy.
“Kenya is investing heavily in alternative energy resources,” 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 the pledge of attaining a green economy. ”
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 aspire to build more units in morthern Kenya to allow communities access this support,” he explained. (Reporting from Kagondu Njagi; editing by Laurie Goering:; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate modification, girls ’s rights, trafficking and corruption.
James Lebasha, of the International Medical Corps, which helped construct the Wamba incinerator, said the burner may be just the first for the region.
“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)