Saturday, June 28, 2008


How many of us are from Wajeer or are Reer Wajeer.....Many of us ofcourse.Whether you went to Wajir High School, Sabunley, had a family in Wajir, or even passed Wajir from Mandera, on your way to Nairobi and Mombasa, many of us Nepians have from time to time related Wajir as being the Centre of NEP.

But ask yourself, what is peculiar with Wajir as a town itself ? Maybe good schools, Mybe good roads, It is the Unsung Heroes....albeit not the Dedan Kimathi type but the night soil men who gather around collecting "Human Excrement" in tractors around the town.

These unsung heroes are about to go out for what is surely one of the most unpleasant jobs in the world - collecting what they call "Night soil", that is human excrement, from people's houses by bucket.

Many people now take for granted the flushing away of waste using modern infrastructure developments such as piped water and sewers, but in towns like Wajir in north-east Kenya, they have to rely on older systems.

The population is almost 200,000 and growing, and with a very high water table close to the ground surface, pit latrines would contaminate the drinking water. So they have had to use a bucket latrine collection system.

"These buckets are emptied every night from every house by the council tractors and council night soil men," explains Wajir district council official Ahmed Omar.

Yet the unglamorous work is not only poorly rewarded but unhealthy as well, as the men were only too quick to tell me. One man showed me his medical documents revealing he was suffering from TB. He says he was emptying the contents of a bucket into the tractor and then some droppings from the tractor went into his eyes.

Now he can only use one eye. The other eye has been infected and even this is getting damaged due to the work and pressure of using only one eye.

He says they are the heroes of Wajir but are not recognised.

"We have got no source of support. If only the authority's system of waste collection and facilities could be enhanced, it would be easier," he says.

Amazingly, these same guys have many complaints arising from their duties but ask yourself.. "Why do these men do it?" they seemed to be thinking along similar lines and sometime enjoy their work. Having a chance to voice their grievances seemed to galvanise them and lots of them began an impromptu strike, it seemed, and walked off the side roads back to their homes.

The smell is overpowering as they move the buckets from one place to another.As you might expect, the smell is quite disgusting. Each of the black buckets is overflowing with excrement and toilet paper, as they gingerly pull them out. To do that, is hectic and many of these hardworking night soil men need to be looked after in terms of health risks and devising proper sanitation methods

While the rest of Wajir is sleeping, these men have very little money and with no protective equipment whatsoever are keeping this town from a serious disease epidemic.
The story in the media about the deplorable sanitation conditions in Wajir had the country in shock. It was shocking to learn that Wajir has no modern sanitation facilities. The residents were exposed to serious health dangers as they had to use portable toilets with council workers ferrying the waste.

This week's quick reaction by Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo is laudable and is something for all our leaders to learn from. It was impressive to see her personally going out to Wajir to see the situation to come up with solutions to this very serious health issue. Mugo is an example of the servant leadership that l leaders should emulate. Let us see other leaders reacting quickly to people’s suffering.