“Devil” Toilets

Today we traveled to Egerton University and were warmly welcomed by Professor Wegulo, who introduced several lecturers. All the lecturers presented their research about local problems in Kenya, such as water sanitation, occupational safety and health, and a global concern – climate change. One of the lectures that caught our attention was about a study on open defecation and oral-fecal infection in Isiolo, a rural area in Kenya. We were told that there were few public toilets in Isiolo, and the ones which were there did not get used due to the lack of sanitation or conflicting cultural values. We were shocked to learn that people avoided using the toilets because they believe devil spirits live inside the toilet during nighttime and could come out and harm the people who use the toilet. How did this belief come to be? Can it be changed? Or is there any solution that can adapt to this context? This is a perfect example of how we must look at more than just surface of the problem, but must consider the local culture as it is a great contributor to overall health.

By: Lucy Reid and Elva Ou (MMASc in Global Health Systems in Africa Candidates) and Aggrey Wandera (BSc Egerton University)

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